Massachusetts GOPers fire up CPAC

Mitt Romney sought to burnish his conservative credentials Thursday with a sharp critique of President Obama's leadership.

"Remember he gave himself that B-plus for his first year in office? Tell that to the 4 million Americans who lost their jobs last year,” the former Massachusetts governor told attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference. "President Obama's self-proclaimed B-plus will go down in history as the biggest exaggeration since Al Gore's invention of the internet."

Romney defended his party's refusal to support the Democrats' legislative agenda. Obama "accuses us of being the party of 'no,'" he said. "It's as if he thinks that by saying 'no' is by definition a bad thing."

Romney continued: "It is right to say no to cap and trade, no to card check, no to government healthcare, no to higher taxes."

When introducing Romney, Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R) got a warm welcome from the audience. "We have absolutely changed the course of politics in America," Brown said, touting Romney's early support for his Senate campaign. "I am so, so thankful for his feeling that I can do it."

Taking the stage, Romney praised Brown for stopping "Obamacare."

Romney has repeatedly used the CPAC conference to bolster his standing with the conservative wing of the Republican Party. In 2008 it provided him with a platform to gracefully exit his party's presidential primary. As a sign of their appreciation, attendees have repeated voted him top of the conference's straw poll.

Looking ahead to the midterm election, Romney said former President Bush can no longer be blamed for the state of the country. "It's wearing so thin it's a regular joke on late night TV," he noted, before launching into a defense of the Bush administration.

"[Bush] took down the Taliban in Afghanistan, he waged a war against the jihadists and was not afraid to call it what it is -- a war. And he kept us safe,” Romney said. "I respect his silence even in the face of the assaults on his record that come from this administration. But at the same time, I also respect the loyalty and indefatigable defense of truth that comes from our 'I don’t give a damn' Vice President Dick Cheney."

The line brought many in the crowd to their feet and Romney took a moment to bask in the applause.

As a result of the Democrats' "reckless" agenda, Romney predicted the GOP would recapture Congress in the next election. "Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and their team have failed the American people, and that is why their majority will soon be out the door," he said.

Once in power, the GOP will focus on lowering taxes, reducing regulation and investing in national security infrastructure, he said.

“We will strengthen our security by building missile defense, restoring our military might, and standing-by and strengthening our intelligence officers,” he said. Moreover, he promised terrorism suspects captured on U.S. soil would not be read their Miranda rights. "On our watch, the conversation with a would-be suicide bomber will not begin with the words, 'You've got the right to remain silent,'" Romney said.