In my column for CNN, I discuss the consequences of Mitt Romney's CPAC speech:
Four weeks from now, no one will remember the Maine caucuses. I'm guessing though that people will remember a phrase from Romney's speech to CPAC on Friday, in which he described himself as a "severely conservative" governor of Massachusetts.
That phrase provides the Obama campaign with the second half of a potentially powerful negative ad. The first half is contained in this video clip from Romney's 2002 campaign for governor.
In the 2002 clip, Romney tells a reporter:
"I think people recognize that I'm not a partisan Republican, that I'm someone who is moderate, and my views are progressive."
In other words, on his way into the governorship, Romney promised moderation and progressivism. By his own telling in 2012, that's not what Romney delivered. Message: With Romney, you don't know what you're getting. You can't trust him.
By all accounts, the "severely conservative" phrase was a slip of the tongue. Romney intended to say "strongly conservative."
What was not a mistake -- what was carefully considered -- was Romney's other big appeal to conservatives this week. That was his decision to join the battle against the Obama administration's new contraception rule. Romney told Fox News on Thursday: "This effort with regard to contraception ... is an outrageous assault on religious conscience in this country."