Oxon Hill, Md. • When Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk mentioned Mitt Romney’s name from the stage, the crowd booed.
“Correct answer,” Kirk said. “Every time his name is mentioned, you should respond that way.”
Romney, a U.S. senator from Utah and former Republican presidential nominee, wasn’t present Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference just outside Washington, having been uninvited by the group’s leader after Romney’s vote to convict President Donald Trump of abuse of power.
Romney wasn’t expected to join anyway — he hasn’t spoken at the conservative confab since 2013 — and that’s probably a good thing because attendees there were still angry over his vote.
“I have not seen Mitt round here,” Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, said walking amid a throng of conferencegoers. “This may not be his most popular venue.”
It was once upon a time. Sort of.
In 2012, as Romney was running for a second time for the GOP presidential nod, the crowd at the ultraconservative gathering welcomed Romney. They gave him a standing ovation. There were Romney chants. He won the group’s straw poll for the White House race.
That’s just a fond Romney memory now with a crowd dominated by red Make America Great Again hats, Trump buttons and shirts and lifesize cutouts of the 45th president, who last year hugged an American flag on stage at the event.
After Romney's impeachment vote, CPAC Chairman Matt Schlapp said the Utah senator was uninvited to its gathering. Schlapp later told former Fox News host Greta Van Susteren on her show “Full Court Press” that Romney shouldn't attend anyway.
Some attendees bristled at that comment.
“We're not thugs,” said Bonnie Asbury of Pennsylvania who had voted for Romney in 2012 but isn't a fan now. “That's not what we're about.”
There were those who didn’t wish Romney well, though.
Gohmert, a leading Trump loyalist in Congress, was quick with a response when asked about Romney.
“I'd heard a rumor — and it was just a rumor — that the president called [Romney] over and said, 'Look, you know, you may not get elected to anything, but I can make you an ambassador. Go to the Hubei Province. You may know the capital, Wuhan.' But that was just a rumor. Look, the ambassadorship to Wuhan may have been offered, but who knows?”
Wuhan, China, is the center of the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus now spreading around the globe.
Even Superman wasn't super excited about Romney anymore.
“I don’t think [CPAC is] probably a friendly home for him at the moment, as I imagine the halls of Congress ... aren’t probably a very happy, friendly place for him right now,” said actor Dean Cain, who played the role of the superhero in the TV series “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.”
Cain backed Romney in 2012, too, but now says he's lost his respect.
There were others who had more choice words about Romney.
“He’s a Republican in name only, a RINO,” said right-wing radio host Alex Jones. “And I’m proud of CPAC telling him not to come here.”
Kirk, who created Turning Point USA, which says its goal is to combat liberal bias at American higher education institutions, earned applause for castigating Romney during his speech at CPAC.
Romney “lied to every single person in this room that knocked on doors for him, that made phone calls for him, that donated his campaign, because we thought that he was going to be a crusader against the Marxist president that preceded Donald Trump,” Kirk said, referring to President Barack Obama. “And now he asks and he begs for the endorsement of Donald Trump for the Senate from Utah and then he goes and votes for that sham, unconstitutional impeachment.”
Kirk later said he wasn't satisfied with the crowd jeering Romney.
“They should have booed louder,” he said in an interview.
Romney’s office declined comment for this story.