"One of the things that's important in running a good campaign is to make sure that you're known for the things that really motivate you, and I needed to do a better job to focus my campaign on the economy and getting the economy right and creating jobs," he said. "And whether through my ads or through my responses to debate questions or on the stump, you know, my power alley is the economy."
Romney's remarks came after he participated in a forum hosted by the nonpartisan McCormick Freedom Project, as part of his nationwide book tour.
He added that the surge in Iraq had been the key issue when he was running in the presidential primaries and that eventual nominee John McCain had benefited by embarking on a highly visible nationwide tour in favor of the surge.
"I mean you can't compete with Sen. McCain on who's most experienced in dealing with Iraq," Romney said. "Then when we came to Michigan, the issue became the economy, and that's of course where I tended to do better. And yeah, I wish I'd have got on that earlier and made that more clear to people as I was out on that stump."
During the hour-long forum, moderator Elizabeth Bracket peppered the former Massachusetts governor with tough questions about his emphatic opposition to the national health care bill that President Obama signed into law on Tuesday, especially in light of Romney's own successful push for universal health care in Massachusetts.
Romney reiterated his affirmation that the manner in which the president went about pushing reform through Congress was a "terrible abuse of power," citing the fact that the bill had no Republican support and decrying "special deals" that were cut with interest groups.
Tanned and well-coiffed as always, Romney's answers were sharp throughout the evening's event, and he often seemed more at ease on stage than he was at times during the 2008 campaign.
He was particularly engaged when PBS's Brackett asked him about his recently released book "No Apology: The Case For American Greatness," the focus of which centers around Romney's belief in the concept of American exceptionalism and the idea that the assertion that the Obama administration hasjeopardized the American era of global dominance.
"Weakness is what invites war and terror," he said. "America's strength, in particular, well, it's the best friend peace has ever known."
The economy may always be the issue most obviously in Romney's wheelhouse, but foreign affairs seem to occupy his attention at least equally as much these days. The substance of Romney's book begins with a discussion of America's role in the world, in which he opines on everything from the decline of the Ottoman Empire to current European perceptions of the United States.
Romney certainly will strive to more effectively emphasize his economic credentials if he does make another run for it in 2012, but don't be surprised if foreign policy is another focal point of his revamped message.
Scott Conroy is a CBS News digital journalist.