Romney says his conservatism will shine through at CPAC

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign rally in Atlanta, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012. AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign rally in Atlanta, Feb. 8, 2012.
AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

In yet another sign of the distrust Mitt Romney faces from Republican voters, he found himself promising Fox News' Sean Hannity he will prove his ideological purity in a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference he is set to deliver on Friday.

"I have a record of being a strong conservative on the issues that matter, and I'll point that out to my friends at CPAC," Romney said Thursday night on Fox News, pointing to his efforts to fight Massachusetts mandates that forced some religious employers to provide access to contraception in their health care plans as well as attempts to stop the legalization of gay marriage in the state.

Romney is in Washington to speak to the annual gathering, where he ended his candidacy for president in 2008. But after his rival Rick Santorum swept three nominating contests this week in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri, the former Massachusetts governor has been forced to address concerns about his presidential bid.

He met with a small group of conservative leaders ahead of his speech at the conference. Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich are expected to do the same when they will speak to the conference as well.

Romney had a lucrative day in the district, where he held a series of policy discussions that participants - many of them Washington lobbyists - paid at least $10,000 to attend. He also held a photo opportunity and reception, and the sum total of his efforts are expected to raise about $1 million.

Among the attendees tonight were former Sens. Jim Talent and Trent Lott, as well as Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fla., and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., two campaign surrogates.

Mack defended Romney against criticism from DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who held a press conference outside the J.W. Marriott, the site of the fundraiser, to accuse Romney of selling the ability to dictate his policies.

"That is not who the governor is," Mack told CBS News/National Journal as he left the fundraiser. "Nobody's buying anything. He's a man of integrity."

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    Rebecca Kaplan covers the 2012 presidential campaign for CBS News and National Journal.

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