DES MOINES, Iowa – Mitt Romney basked in his victory Sunday after the Ames, Iowa, straw poll a day earlier gave him 32 percent of a vote often used to gauge support for the Republican candidates ahead of the first in the nation presidential caucuses in January.
Romney won 4,516 votes of the 14,302 total ballots cast.
"We hoped to get out about 4,000 to 5,000. We did. They came. They voted. I won. Can't do better than that. That's exactly what I was hoping for. And frankly, the key for me is building that organizational base that propels me for the caucuses," Romney told "FOX News Sunday."
The former Massachusetts governor refused to let his victory be declared hollow even though the two other top declared contenders — John McCain and Rudy Giuliani — declined to appear and as-yet undeclared candidate Fred Thompson wasn't in contention.
"What I'm pleased about is that the message I came to Iowa with — and that is that I could strengthen America, get the job done to strengthen our military, to strengthen our economy with better good jobs and to strengthen America's families — that that message connected with the voters here in Iowa. And I did it on the air. I did it at the grassroots level," he said.
Romney said he resonated with voters because he truly is a conservative, as evidenced by his tenure as governor of Massachusetts.
"Talk is cheap, but action speaks very loud. And I was a governor for four years. And on the issues people care about, they can see what I did as governor. And I'm happy to put my record up against anybody that's running for president," he said.
However, while running for governor in 2002, Romney said he supported abortion rights, a position he also maintained eight years earlier when he ran for the Senate against Ted Kennedy. He and his wife Ann Romney have both said their positions have evolved since that time -- his change of heart apparenty came when he was asked to sign legislation supporting the procedure, and hers after she found out in 1998 that she has multiple sclerosis.
Last week during a Republican presidential debate, Romney called his support for abortion the greatest mistake of his life.
"I changed my position on abortion. I was effectively pro-choice, given the statements I had made, but I am pro-life. I'm proud of that. And I frankly think that the people whose campaigns were entirely focused on trying to bring me down and attack me — those campaigns weren't successful," he told "FNS."
Romney also said he regretted a comment he made last week at a town hall meeting in which he said his sons, none of whom have been in the military, were showing their patriotism by helping him get elected.
"I misspoke there. I didn't mean in any way to compare service in the country with my boys in any way. Service in this country is an extraordinary sacrifice being made by individuals and their families. ... I'm very pleased and proud of my boys and the help they're doing for their dad, but it's not service to the country. It's service for me. And there's just no comparison there," he said.
Asked to respond as if he were president, Romney said he would continue to keep the surge of U.S. soldiers in Iraq as long as it appeared that they were making progress toward stabilizing that country. He added that despite his support for a successful surge, he would do things differently from President Bush in the War on Terror.
"I want to bring in a real strong team of people who have very different backgrounds, a lot from the private sector, and I want to take on a whole series of efforts. One is not just to win in Iraq and in Afghanistan, win the peace there, but I'd like to take on an effort globally to defeat jihad which is military in scope but also non-military, that combines our non-military resources with those of other nations to help move the word of Islam toward modernity and help the Muslims themselves reject the extreme," he said.