WASHINGTON -- Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney might have been forgiven for gloating a little about this week's election. A half-dozen GOP Senate candidates pulled a page from Romney's 2012 playbook and ran successfully as moderate, pro-business Republicans, helping the GOP take control of the Senate for the first time in nearly a decade.
But instead of patting himself on the back Friday during an appearance at the Israeli American Council's inaugural national conference, Romney paid President Barack Obama a compliment, of sorts, telling the audience he believed a major reason Democrats lost the Senate was that they didn't align themselves closely enough with the president.
Democratic Senate candidates campaigned as, "I'm not president Obama, I'm as far from him as I can be," Romney said. "I think it would have been wiser to say, 'I liked what the president did here, I'm proud of what we did there, I applaud what we did here, there are some things I think he did wrong, but these things I'm proud of," he more than 500 attendees. "I think that would have been a better strategy."
Romney is familiar with the topic. He spent much of his losing 2012 presidential campaign trying to distance himself from the universal health care law he signed while governor of Massachusetts. He delivered Friday's comments in a way that both knocks the Democratic Party and appears gracious.
The event was set up as a question-and-answer program with former George W. Bush administration adviser Dan Senor. Romney spent much of it bashing Obama's foreign policy.
Romney said he was "stunned" and "speechless" to learn from news reports that Obama had written to the supreme leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, about the need for Iran and the U.S. to combat the so-called Islamic State terror group. Romney called the letter "an enormous error," which he said "diminished" the U.S. and "leads bad people to believe that America can be pushed around."
Many of Romney's comments garnered applause mid-sentence from the mostly Israeli-American audience. The non-profit Israeli American Council was founded in 2007 and centered primarily in Los Angeles until last year, when an infusion of money from conservative casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson helped launch the group nationally. Adelson's wife, Miriam Adelson, is Israeli-American.
Adelson was among the largest individual donors to pro-Romney causes during the 2012 presidential campaign, contributing around $150 million to various non-profits, PACs and dark-money groups designed to help get Romney elected.
Adelson's record in presidential politics served to fuel speculation among attendees at Friday's event about a potential Romney campaign for the White House in 2016. The former Massachusetts governor did not address the gossip, however, and Senor didn't ask him about it.