(CNN) – Following Mitt Romney’s loss to President Barack Obama, conservative leaders wasted no time Wednesday offering pointed criticism of the Republican Party and its pick for president.
A coalition of social conservatives and tea party activists gathered in Washington to decry what they described as Romney’s failure to represent conservatives on a national level.
“We wanted someone who would fight for us. What we got was a weak, moderate candidate, hand-picked by the Beltway elites and country club establishment wing of the Republican Party,” Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, said in a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington.
“The presidential loss is unequivocally on them,” she added.
Pushed from the right in the Republican presidential primary, Romney sought to paint himself as “severely conservative,” though the former Massachusetts governor had taken Democratic positions on certain issues in his political past.
Brent Bozell, president of the conservative Media Research Center, argued that Romney failed to pass the ideological test, saying he ran as a “Democrat-light” and adjusted his positions to campaign as a moderate during the general election.
“At the end of the day, conservatives were left out in the cold. It should have been a landslide for Romney, had he embraced a truly conservative agenda,” Bozell said. “But Romney’s a moderate and his campaign embarked on a bizarre…defense from the outset.”
He further faulted the GOP presidential nominee for not adopting a political strategy of defining his opponent and going on the attack early on. Citing the president’s record, Bozell argued “it should have been a cakewalk for Romney to define (the president), but he didn’t–hence Obama’s victory.”
On social issues, Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion rights group Susan B. Anthony List, blasted the candidate for not making abortion a central part of the 2012 dialogue.
“He took all the right stances,” she said. “The problem was not communicating on the national stage with Obama what his actual positions were.”
The group endorsed Romney after he unofficially became the nominee in April when former Sen. Rick Santorum dropped out of the race. Dannenfelser said they were “happy to endorse him when the time came” but expressed frustration when she said “we assumed, that given who he was, he would make (abortion) more of a national issue.”
Looking at the party on a macro-level, activists also acknowledged Republicans had work to do in terms of adapting to the country’s demographic changes. Alfred Regnery, president of the Paul Revere Project, issued a stark warning for the GOP.
“If Republicans don’t start to listen to (what minorities are looking for in a candidate), it’s going to be a long time before they can win,” he said.
His comments echoed those made my former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who earlier Wednesday said on CNN that the party now faces a “very serious moment” and argued the GOP should work on becoming more inclusive–a major challenge, he said, for House Republicans.
“The question is do they want to, in a disciplined way, create a schedule and a program and include people who are not traditionally Republican?” he said.
All the activists at the press conference agreed that Tuesday’s election signaled a need for the GOP to re-institute more conservative “fundamentals.” While some argue the Republican Party’s failure to retake the Senate or make gains in the House suggests the tea party is losing steam, the group of individuals Wednesday argued the opposite.
Given this week’s results, they said, conservatives will be even more motivated to reform the party. Richard A. Viguerie, chairman of ConservatieHQ.com, ended the press conference with one final prediction.
“Tea partiers will take over the Republican Party within four years,” he said.
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