Romney says he was 'severely conservative' governor

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, Friday, Feb. 10, 2012. (AP Photo / Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON -- Mitt Romney defended his conservative bona fides Friday at a convention of right wing activists, portraying his career as a businessman and Massachusetts governor as a struggle for the ideals they hold dear.

“I know conservatism, because I have lived conservatism,” Romney told a jammed ballroom at the Conservative Political Action Committee here.  To be sure to emphasize the point, he used the word “conservative” or “conservatism” 24 times in a 20-minute speech. At one point, Romney even described himself as a “severely conservative” governor.

Romney’s appearance was highly anticipated since he lost three states to Rick Santorum earlier in the week, renewing concerns that the putative frontrunner has not been able to reassure conservative voters concerned that he has been too moderate, particularly on abortion and gay marriage.

He was interrupted by standing ovations six times.

In Democrat-dominated Massachusetts, Romney said, he cut taxes 19 times, balanced the budget every year and vetoed 800 bills.

And he stressed how he had fought for a stay to block implementation of the Massachusetts Supreme Court’s decision in 2004 legalizing same-sex marriage. Then, Romney said, he led the fight for an amendment to the state constitution banning it, and prohibited out-of-state couples from taking advantage of the law to get married in Massachusetts.

“On my watch we fought hard and kept Massachusetts from becoming the Las Vegas of gay marriage,” Romney said.

He also talked about vetoing a bill that, he said, would have led to “embryo farming” for human cloning and fought against bills that would have allowed young girls to have access to “morning after” contraceptive pills, which Romney called “abortion inducing drugs.”

“I was fighting against big odds in a deep blue state, but I was a severely conservative Repbulicn governor,” Romney said.