Last weekend, I traveled to Washington, D.C., with about 20 other Yalies to attend to the Conservative Political Action Conference. I wasn’t sure what to expect. The week before, I had grown disillusioned with the infighting present in the GOP and the dragged out contest the primaries seemed to become after a string of Rick Santorum victories in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri.

Like many college Mitt Romney supporters, I threw my support behind Mitt after his victory in the New Hampshire primary. But I wasn’t expecting to encounter a Romney crowd at CPAC. After all, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul and Santorum seemed content to continue deriding Romney and one another. Surely, the anti-Romney sentiment would be felt at a conference of conservative activists with a history of delusional support for Paul.

But my expectations could not have been more off. The GOP infighting that has been the wide subject of media attention was not as intense as I thought it would be. In fact, in calling on candidates to prove their conservative chops, my party has been using the primaries to strengthen the final nominee.

A common adage at the conference was that we are no longer running a Rockefeller Republican for the White House. And on Friday, Romney delivered a speech that reassured the conservative base that this is true, leveling jabs at Obama and at the liberals of his home state of Massachusetts.

But Romney’s support from conservatives wasn’t the only momentous victory he scored at CPAC. As his victory among a pool of voters of whom 44 percent were students showed, Romney has the support of the young Republican base.

Young people, who have supported Ron Paul in the past two election cycles, voted for Romney because we believe he is the only candidate with the fiscal aptitude and leadership ability to reverse the growth of the dependency state that has been expanding for far too long. Young voters were crucial in the Reagan and Bush victories of the ’80s, and if 2008 is any indication, they will present a major portion of the 2012 electorate. If the Republicans plan on ousting Obama in November, Romney must be the nominee.

Romney made it clear that his time as a businessman and governor will prove invaluable assets as president. He spent close to three decades eliminating waste, balancing budgets and turning around failing business. We want to nominate someone who can fix Washington, not some career politician who is a client of it.

Those still not committed have to look at his record within the context of the state that he governed. He was the governor of Massachusetts, not Utah, and he had to deal with the circumstances of his liberal electorate. But as much as possible, he still led as a true conservative, using his line-item veto power more than 800 times across four budgets.

But more than ideology, conservatives need to focus on what ticket the GOP must create in order to defeat Obama in November.

This is why Senator Marco Rubio of Florida was able to win 34 percent of the vice presidential straw poll vote in a field of 11 choices that included popular conservatives like Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell and Paul Ryan. A Romney-Marco Rubio ticket would likely carry the vitally important state of Florida and help forge a Republican victory in November. The mindset we must have at the moment is a strategic one.

Santorum’s statement that nominating someone who is not a true conservative would be a hollow victory is not only unfounded when considering Romney — it’s absurd. Conservatives would align more favorably with any of the GOP candidates than President Obama.

The only way that Republicans can take back the White House is by nominating Romney. Although the prolonged primary season will serve to anchor Romney ideologically, it also allows Obama and the Democrats to do what they are most skilled at — campaigning.

But Mitt Romney is simply the best candidate. He’s a committed leader and a successful businessman. Unlike many of the other candidates, he is not an amalgam of empty rhetoric. Many decried Reagan in the same manner three decades ago — and they were wrong.

Christian Vazquez is a junior in Branford College and a former production and design editor of the News. Contact him at