In his first major speech since losing the presidential election last November, Mitt Romney addressed a enthusiastic and supportive packed house today at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
Detractors had predicted that he would be "booed off the stage" instead of the standing ovation he received.
His tone, despite his loss was upbeat and inspiring. Not dwelling long on the election or his defeat, he said "I left the race disappointed that I didn't win, humbled that I got to speak on the values we believe in."
When speaking of his loss to Barack Obama he said "My optimism in America wasn't diminished by my campaign, it grew."
"As someone who lost in the last election, I'm probably not the best person to give advice on the next one." But, then he discussed the successes of the last election cycle in the election of so many Republican governor.
In particular, Romney noted the success of Governor Rick Snyder's success in passing Right to Work legislation in Michigan. "These governors have shown they can reach across the aisle, take on the tough issues and then take the heat."
He also spoke of other Republicans in office. He took a moment to note the Republican "courage and leadership" and to his former running mate. In a reference to the current budget discussions he lauded the "clear and convincing voice of my friend, Paul Ryan."
If there was any thought that Mitt Romney would appear defeated or deflated, or on how the crowd would receive the man who failed to take the White House away from Barack Obama, those thoughts disappeared quickly.
Never mentioning the president, his speech focused on the future. In a piece of advice to the next president, he said they need to "Do whatever you can to keep America strong and the most prosperous country on earth."
Turning to America's role in the world, he appealed to America's history and historic leadership role in the world. "If America were surpassed by another nation it would be devastating" particularly because any country that may be in a position to surpass our country would not share our values.
He then listed countries that America with which America has gone to war, and saying how America has held the position as the world's leading military power, without using it for our own gain. "The impulse behind these interventions was liberation, not conquest."
CPAC is sponsored by the American Conservative Union (ACU) and many Tea Party groups. This is the 40th anniversary of the event. The theme for this year's conference is reaching out to the next generation of conservatives to propel the movement forward.
Before he appeared this afternoon, there was some speculation that he might apologize for his losing the last election. We may have heard that combined with a hint toward his future role and continued participation in politics and the Republican Party.
"I'm sorry I won't be your president, but I will be your co-worker and will work shoulder to shoulder alongside you. In the end we'll win. Our cause is just and it is right."