Mitt Romney to speak at CPAC for some reason

Everyone will applaud politely, of course, but there’s no way to avoid the ineffable awkwardness that will surround this speech. Then again, if there’s one thing Romney does well, it’s ineffable awkwardness. (“Severely conservative”?) Maybe it’ll just feel like old times.

Alternate headline: “Man to appear at event devoted to repudiating him.”

Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney will appear at the Conservative Political Action Conference next month, according to two sources familiar with the event’s itinerary. Romney’s speech, which will be delivered at the Gaylord National hotel in Prince George’s County, Md., marks the former Massachusetts governor’s return to the political scene.

After he lost the presidential election, Romney decamped to his beachfront home in La Jolla, Calif. But friends say he has become somewhat restless, and he’s eager to contribute to the national debate. Sources say he’ll likely focus on economic and fiscal issues, and that his message will be optimistic.

“This is really an opportunity for Governor Romney to thank all his supporters and friends,” says a senior Romney aide.

Sample Twitter reaction:

He’ll be okay. As angry as people are at him for the catastrophic technological gap with Obama’s campaign, I think there’s some sympathy for him as a guy who was ultimately crushed by larger forces. He did himself no favors with the “self-deportation” line but Republicans have been getting creamed among Latino voters for decades and there are now more Latino voters than ever before. He did himself no favors with the “47 percent” line either but Harry Enten made a compelling case yesterday at the Guardian that, as counterintuitive as it seems, economic indicators ahead of the election all pointed to a close but comfortable Obama win. No one, I think, disagrees with the proposition that the GOP has big problems and that those problems are bigger than Romney. That’s not to excuse his screw-ups during the campaign, just to say that I think that awareness will inform the audience’s reception of him at CPAC.

But yeah, it’ll still be awkward. For two reasons. One: The whole GOP storyline of the past three months has been about tomorrow’s party rock stars trying to undo the damage from the “47 percent” and “self-deportation” business. Jindal’s been killing him on the former and Rubio, through his immigration efforts, has been killing him on the latter. (This recent headline says it all.) It’s bizarre to have the avatar of the old order speaking alongside guys whose big pitch is all about how wrong he was. Two: Romney’s split personality as the ObamaCare-pioneering RINO who wants illegals to self-deport and the “takers” to do more to become “makers” is emblematic of the party’s split personality right now. The leadership, in the form of Rubio, Jindal, Ryan, Christie et al., desperately wants to carve out space in the center but there’s still a chunk of the conservative base that agrees with Mitt about attrition through enforcement and makers-and-takers. Look no further than McCain’s town hall last night. Which Romney shows up at CPAC? Which gets applauded?

Exit question: Er, how does Romney intend to “contribute to the national debate”? Apart from occasional guest shots on Fox News, what platform does he have?