Mitt Romney calls for optimism in return speech

Mitt Romney at CPAC conference Mitt Romney has kept a low profile since losing the US presidential election last year

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Former US presidential candidate Mitt Romney has urged Republicans to stay optimistic in his first major speech since losing the election last year.

Speaking at a conference of conservative politicians and activists, Mr Romney said pessimism among Republicans had become "fashionable".

"I utterly reject that pessimism... we have not lost our way," he said.

Since conceding to Barack Obama in November last year, Mr Romney has kept a low profile.

He has made few media appearances and was not present at Mr Obama's inauguration in January.

His speech at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is notable as many of the grass-roots activists were sceptical of his conservative credentials in the run-up to the presidential election.

Some delegates maintain Mr Romney lost because he was not conservative enough.

Despite this he was warmly received by delegates, who gave him a standing ovation.

"As someone who just lost the last election, I'm probably not the best person to chart the course for the next election," he said.

"I am sorry that I won't be your president. But I will be your co-worker and I will stand shoulder to shoulder beside you."

Mid-term elections are due to be held in 2014, while some campaigners are already looking ahead to the next presidential race in 2016.

Following last year's defeat at the ballot box, the future direction of the Republican party has come under scrutiny.

Among members there are divisions between those who believe the party must stick close to its conservative roots, while others fear that such a course will only further alienate more moderate voters.

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