Romney: I'm not pessimistic about America

In his first major speech since his presidential defeat Mitt Romney told fellow conservatives Friday he remains optimistic about their movement and will help them take back the White House.

"It's fashionable in some circles to be pessimistic about America, about conservative solutions, about the Republican Party," Romney told thousands gathered at the annual CPAC just outside Washington.

"I utterly reject pessimism," he declared. "We may not have carried November 7th, but we haven't lost the country we love. And we have not lost our way."

Romney was warmly received at the pro-Republican meeting, despite some of its most right-wing delegates having last year cast doubt on his conservative credentials as a former governor of liberal-leaning Massachusetts.

"I'm sorry I won't be your president, but I will be your co-worker and I'll work shoulder to shoulder alongside you," pledged Romney, who received a standing ovation from the crowd.

The fate of the Republican Party is the unmistakable undercurrent of the three-day CPAC confab, with debate over whether a rift among conservatives is bridgeable ahead of the 2014 mid-term elections and the 2016 presidential race.

Last year's loss triggered a GOP family feud, with some conservatives intent on excommunicating leaders when they break with party orthodoxy, such as its stand on taxes or abortion.

Others are concerned that the demand for such ideological purity will only marginalize Republicans at the ballot box.

Even as other speakers before him, including the flamboyant real estate tycoon Donald Trump, sought to dissect his campaign failures, Romney largely steered clear of the debate in his CPAC speech.

"In the end, we'll win. We'll win for the same reason we won before," Romney assured the crowd. "Because our cause is just and it is right."