From NBC's Mark Murray
WASHINGTON -- At the beginning of the 2008 presidential contest, conservatives were suspicious about Mitt Romney. He had supported abortion rights, had once championed embryonic stem-cell research, and had even voted for Paul Tsongas in the 1992 Democratic primary.
But by the end of the GOP primary season, more and more conservatives had embraced the former Massachusetts governor. In fact, when he withdrew from the primary race at last year's Conservative Political Action Conference, he did so to loud gasps and shouts of "No!"
Well, Romney today returned to same conference where he ended his '08 presidential bid. And he did so to a thunderous applause.
When he addressed the confab here, he wasn't the moderate governor from a Northeast state. Rather, he was a full-throated conservative. He whacked the spending from the month-old Obama administration. "America voted for change," he said. "America did not vote for a boat-load of new government spending programs."
On his governing philosophy: "Conservative principles are absolutely essential to keeping America strong."
On Iraq: "It is in spite of Barack Obama's stance on Iraq -- not because of it -- that American troops are coming home to victory."