On the Nevada leg of his doomed quest for the White House, Mitt Romney said this:
"I believe conservatives across the nation and particularly in states where I have been able to take my message, like Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina and Michigan and Florida and Nevada, that conservatives that have heard me time and again recognize that I do speak for the Republican wing of the Republican Party," Romney said.
The AP's account points out that Howard Dean used the same formulation—"Democratic wing of the Democratic party" in March 2003, clubbing the then-Democratic frontrunners for approving the Iraq War and caving in to George W. Bush. (Dean rival and Florida Sen. Bob Graham sniped that he was from the "electable wing of the Democratic Party." Graham was last seen cleaning tables at the Applebee's in Largo, off U.S. 19.) The taxonomy is more interesting than that, though. Dean borrowed the phrase from the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, the Minnesotan liberal who'd died in a plane crash in October 2002. In his obit for Wellstone, Fred Barnes explained why that description mattered.
He used to describe himself as a member of the "the Democratic wing of the Democratic party"–the left wing. But why would conservatives express admiration? The answer is he was an honest liberal, a rare breed in Washington. He occasionally called himself a "progressive" but never a "new Democrat" or "moderate." Nor did he insist, as many liberals do, that political labels mean nothing. He was not a faker.
You're asking if there could be a more ironic origin for Romney's applause line. The answer is "no."
And it's strange how little Romney is getting from his yearlong political cross-dress. Rudy Giuliani, who has dealt with his own Romney-like differences with the GOP base by pivoting to terrorism and tax issues, is running away with the election. After this Nevada speech the audience took a straw poll and Romney lost to Ron Paul by 17 points.