The Mitt Romney CPAC saw yesterday wasn't the over-eager presidential contender the conservative group met in 2007. These days, Romney looks more comfortable, his rhetoric actually matches his record, and protégé Scott Brown is the toast of DC. Aides tell Politico that whereas in 2008 people saw Romney as “this kid sitting in the front of the classroom with his hand up,” he’s recast himself as the “adult” of the 2012 race.
They see rivals like Sarah Palin flailing at every passing news story, while Romney picks his shots, attacking carefully, forcefully and rarely. “He’s not in a place where you need to chase every car,” says one media consultant. But critics say that Romney’s carrying a terrible albatross: he helped pass health care reform in Massachusetts. “I think some people would say he hasn’t been above the fray, that he’s been hiding from the fray,” says one former adviser.