Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney sought to cast himself as a champion of the nation’s poor Friday, as he announced he is giving a third presidential campaign “serious consideration.”
Addressing the GOP’s elite at the winter meeting of the Republican National Committee aboard the U.S.S. Midway, Romney premiered a brand new stump speech, laying out the themes of his proto-campaign and for the party in the “post-Obama era.”
“First, we have to make the world safer,” Romney said. “Second, we have to make sure and provide opportunity for all Americans regardless of the neighborhood they live in. And finally, we have to lift people out of poverty. If we communicate those three things effectively, the American people are going to be with us—be with our nominee and with our candidates across the country.”
Romney received a warm welcome from the members of the RNC in his first appearance with them since his Nov. 2012 loss to President Barack Obama. “It’s nice to appear with friends like this, I gotta tell ya,” he said over the clamor of applause as he took the stage.
In strikingly personal terms for the famously wooden candidate, Romney spoke about his service as a “pastor” in the Mormon Church helping the poor, saying of his wife, Ann, “She’s seen me work with people who are very poor to help them get help.” Romney aides said that should he formally announce he would be more comfortable showing his warmer private persona in public.
“Under President Obama, the rich have gotten richer, income inequality has gotten worse, and there are more people in poverty in America than ever before,” Romney said. “People want to see rising wages, and they deserve them,” he added.
He argued that conservative principles would best address the problem.
“The only policies that will reach into the hearts of American people and pull people out of poverty and break the cycle of poverty are Republican principles, conservative principles. They include family formation, and education and good jobs and we’re going to bring them to the American people and finally end the scourge of poverty in this great land.”
The focus on poverty reflected a significant change of tune for Romney, a multimillionaire private equity executive who famously told a group of donors that 47 percent of Americans would never vote for him because they are dependent on government and “believe that they are victims.” Romney’s 2012 campaign even prevented his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, from incorporating a discussion of poverty into his stump speech.
But Romney continued to echo his infamous line, as well as his assertion after the election that Obama won in 2012 because he gave “gifts” to minority voters, saying of Democrats, “Their liberal policies are good every four years for a campaign, but they don’t get the job done.”
Romney, who believes his 2012 critiques of the Obama foreign policy have been vindicated, sharply criticized the president’s handling of global crises and geopolitical threats. “The world is not safer six years after Barack Obama has been in office,” he said, referencing last week’s terrorist attacks in France, Nigeria, and Yemen. “Terrorism is not on the run.”
Romney indicated that his wife is on board with a potential third campaign. “She believes that people get better with experience, and heaven knows I have experience running for president,” he quipped, adding, “Me, I’m giving some serious consideration to the future.”
Romney said regardless of his decision, he would work to support the Republican Party’s nominee in 2016.
In his introduction, RNC Chair Reince Priebus effusively praised Romney in his introduction, crediting him for his help for GOP candidates in 2014.
“Governor Romney was the man over these last two years,” Priebus said. “I just want to thank him for all of the work that he did, beside the life-changing experience of being the nominee, Mitt Romney was a person who spent the next two years helping our party, helping our party rebuild, and helping our party grow.”
But Romney, who faced a skeptical, if friendly audience, did not put an end to doubts that his candidacy would be in the party’s best interests.
“We heard some new themes tonight from Governor Romney, but we heard many other candidates’ new themes this week,” said South Carolina Chairman Matt Moore. “What’s clear is that this primary is going to be seriously competitive—whether Governor Romney gets in, or not.”
“I think he was talking about supporting the team,” said Rep. Darrell Issa, discounting Romney’s talk that he’s seriously considering a bid. “Obviously he’s doing a trip around to ask people whether they think he should be the candidate, but the important thing:, he made a strong commitment to the RNC here tonight that regardless of the outcome he’d be supporting the nominee.”
Issa would not say whether he thought Romney should launch a third bid for the White House.