OXON HILL, Md. - Republican Mitt Romney told conservative activists Friday that he's sorry he's not their president but promised to work alongside them to help strengthen the Republican Party.
"Each of us in our own way will have to step up and meet our responsibility," Romney told a crowded ballroom at the Conservative Political Action Conference, a three-day political summit in suburban Washington.
"I am sorry that I will not be your president," the 2012 Republican presidential nominee said during his first public speech since last fall's election loss. "But I will be your co-worker, and I will work shoulder-to-shoulder alongside you."
Former Massachusetts Gov., and 2012 Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney pauses while speaking at the 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md., Friday.
Romney's conservative credentials were sometimes questioned during his presidential campaign, but he was greeted with a roaring ovation and interrupted by applause several times during his brief remarks. Advisers said his appearance was designed to thank conservatives for backing his candidacy.
Romney won the conference's straw poll one year ago, when he described himself as "severely conservative." He did not repeat that phrase on Friday, but he did borrow heavily from his campaign trail speech. Romney referred to the same furniture upholsterer and truck driver he cited almost daily as he crisscrossed the country last year.
The former Massachusetts governor is not expected to play a leading role in the future of the Republican Party, but he said, "It's up to us to make sure that we learn from our mistakes, and my mistakes."