Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney headlined congressional Republicans' big new policy conclave over the weekend, stressing the need to listen to real Americans, but also appearing to slap a potential rival for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination.
At the National Council for a New America's first "conversation" in Arlington, Va., Romney, who ran for the Republican nomination last year and has kept his name in the conversation for 2012, joined House Republican Whip Eric Cantor and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush in presiding over the panel.
"I’ve learned that when you sit in a position of responsibility as you do now and as we did once, you typically get the best ideas that really make a difference from people that you’re serving," Romney said, citing his experience helping pass the Bay State's universal healthcare plan.
“Listening to people can make a difference and we’ve got ideas about how we can help people get health insurance, how we can improve our schools, how we can make our economy strong today as well as down the road, how we can reform entitlements," he added. "These are the people of America that have these ideas. We want to share these ideas with one another and make sure that we’re laying out a vision and a plan for America that makes our lives and the lives of our kids better."
But what earned Romney the most publicity was what appeared to be a diss of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, the GOP vice presidential candidate last year and a possible competitor for the 2012 nomination.
On CNN on Sunday, Romney was asked about Time magazine including Palin on its list of “The World’s Most Influential People.”
After toeing the party line and saying that he wanted more Republicans on the list, he said, “I think there are a lot more influential Republicans than that would suggest. But was that the issue on the most beautiful people or the most influential people?”
“I'm not sure. If it's the most beautiful, I understand. We're not real cute.”
Romney, by the way, was on People magazine's list of 50 beautiful Americans in 2002.
UPDATE: This evening, Cantor announced that Palin has joined the council's panel of experts, with Romney.
“When NCNA was announced last week, we spoke about a dynamic organization that worked to constantly bring in new people and innovative ideas," Cantor said in a statement. "The launch of the National Council was just the first step in a growing effort to engage the American people in a candid discussion as we work to overcome our shared challenges with common-sense ideas, building a stronger nation along the way.
“I look forward to welcoming additional local and national leaders to the National Council in the days, weeks, and months ahead.”
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.