Washington (CNN) - Sarah Palin issued a warning to Mitt Romney Saturday, calling on the former Massachusetts governor to do a better job explaining his record to conservatives or risk dampening voter turnout in November if he wins the Republican presidential nomination.
In an interview with CNN and The New York Times before her speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, Palin said she was confused by Romney’s declaration here on Friday that he was a “severely conservative Republican.”
“I wasn’t quite sure what the word 'severely' meant,” Palin said.
She said Romney and his two main rivals - Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich - should be given time to explain the flaws in their record until the Republican National Convention in August, when she said the nomination fight could ultimately be decided.
But Romney may have the hardest sale to make, she said, asking him to explain his “shifts in ideology” since he left the Massachusetts governorship.
“You have to have the tea party patriots enthused and energized in order to win this nomination, and more importantly in order to defeat Barack Obama,” Palin argued.
If conservatives are “dismissed and they are marginalized” by the Republican establishment, “they are going to be much less enthused and much less willing to put it all on the line for the GOP candidate in the general election.”