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Mitt Romney claimed a pair of wins during the weekend, scoring a close victory over Rep. Ron Paul in Maine (39 percent to 36 percent) and, more surprisingly, winning the straw poll at the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference annual gathering of right-minded individuals.


The latter win is surprising in that Romney has struggled to convince voters of his true conservative credentials, due mostly to his former role as governor of the historically liberal state of Massachusetts.

Yet somehow Romney — described as “liberal” and “moderate” by certain primary opponents — wowed the activist crowd. Rick Santorum, who lost the poll by 7 points, has a theory:?Romney, he claims, like Paul before him, rigged the vote, “because he just trucks in a lot of people, pays for their ticket, they come in and vote and then leave.”


Sarah Palin, who made a splash at CPAC with populist speechifying, also remains skeptical of Romney’s conversion. “I am not convinced [of Romney’s conservatism] and I don’t think that the majority of GOP and independent voters are convinced,” she told Fox News yesterday.


Romney, for his part, seems aware of this weakness. At his CPAC speech on Friday, he made extra sure to hype his conservative cred, using the word “conservative” (or a close variation thereof) 25 times in the 26-minute address. “I was a severely conservative Republican governor,” he told attendees.


Some right-wingers — including Rep. Paul and radio host Rush Limbaugh — were particularly confused by the “severely” line, but we weren’t. “Severe,” as readers can see in the box to the left, refers specifically to “unnecessary” extremes, “grave” epidemics like sickness, “rigid” ideas and beliefs, and those people and things known for “causing discomfort,” “distress” or

“unpleasant violence.” Sounds remarkably on the money.

What's it mean?

According to the Web linguists at, “severe” is not exactly the most positive descriptor.

se·vere, adjective:

1. harsh; unnecessarily extreme: severe criticism.

2. serious or stern in manner: a severe face.

3. grave; critical: a severe illness.

4. rigidly restrained in style, taste, manner, etc.; simple.

5. causing discomfort or distress by extreme character or conditions, as weather, cold, or heat; unpleasantly violent, as rain or wind, or a blow or shock.

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