WASHINGTON -- Mitt Romney delivered a brutal critique yesterday of President Obama's leadership, calling the president and American liberals “neo-monarchists'' who threaten the very pioneering spirit on which the country was built.
Sounding much like a potential opponent of Obama's in 2012, Romney, who failed in his bid for the GOP nomination in 2008, wooed party conservatives with a litany of attacks on Obama's handling of health care, national security, taxes and the economy.
“It has become clear who is responsible for President Obama's lost year, the 10 percent unemployment year: President Obama and his fellow Democrats,'' Romney told a packed ballroom at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. “So when it comes to pinning blame, pin the tail on the donkeys.''
But while Romney received several standing ovations, the seeds of political trouble were evident for the would-be 2012 candidate. The loudest cheers came for his blistering remarks about Democrats, and not for his economic analysis.
The wound-up crowd, many of whom are part of the conservative Tea Party movement, appeared more romanced by new faces such as Marco Rubio, a conservative Florida US Senate candidate, and Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, who was greeted with a standing ovation and loud cheers just for showing up to introduce Romney.
And while several conference attendants said they were impressed by Romney's presence and experience, they wondered whether he had the ability to win over the anti-government conservatives who comprise an active and critical part of the Republican Party.
“I don't think he understands the philosophy of freedom that motivates the tea parties,'' said Sean Ryan, a 29-year-old Boston Latin teacher. “I haven't really heard Romney speak eloquently about freedom and liberty.''
Dave Smith, 57, praised Romney as one of the underpinnings of the American conservative movement. But he wondered whether Romney's experience -- being governor of Massachusetts and steering the 2002 Winter Olympics -- would be seen as political baggage by activists eager for a less conventional leader.
“That almost looks establishment,'' said Smith, a law enforcement trainer in Oswego, Illinois who has not settled on a favorite candidate for 2012. “One of the things he's going to have to do is keep an emphasis on the grassroots.''
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.