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Romney touts conservative credentials in CPAC address

Seeking to affirm his conservative credentials in front of a crowd of Republican activists today, Mitt Romney waged a defense of his time as governor of Massachusetts, declaring, “I was a severely conservative Republican governor.”

“I fought against all odds in a deep blue state,” Romney said.  “But I was a severely conservative Republican governor. I understand the battles we as conservatives must fight, because I have been on the front lines, and expect to be on those front lines again.”

It was a defense of a part of his record that has come under frequent attack during the course of the GOP primary. 

Earlier this morning, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum likened the statewide health care plan Romney launched in 2006 to a "stepchild” of President Obama’s federal program.

Romney’s speech was, in some ways, a vigorous defense of this morning’s broadside from Santorum, who swept a series of primary contests Tuesday night, posing a new threat to Romney’s path to the nomination.

But the defense involved a delicate dance for Romney, who touted his time as governor of Massachusetts, all while railing against career politicians.

“I happen to be the only candidate in this race – Republican or Democrat – who has never worked a day in Washington,” Romney said, adding, “I don’t have old scores to settle, or decades of cloakroom deals that I have to defend.”

“This gathering has always welcomed me,” Romney told the crowd of his record, “and you’ve consistently supported me, not because of my rhetoric, but because of my record in that deep blue state.”