Republicans Are Running Away from Romney

4798 Mitt Romney is rapidly becoming the candidate that Republicans would like to forget.

Most Republicans would prefer Romney to just ride off into the twilight. | AP Photo
Less than two weeks after his narrow popular vote defeat to President Barack Obama, members of his own party are fleeing from him with surprising speed -- especially in the wake of the GOP nominee's explanation for Obama's win: "gifts" to Democratic constituencies.

Unlike Romney, previous losing GOP candidates like current and former senator John McCain and Bob Dole built up decades of goodwill that ensured a degree of respect and loyalty after their presidential defeats. But there's little of that for this year's failed candidate, who was never part of the Washington establishment.

"Post Romney, post haste. That's I think where we are," said Rick Tyler, the GOP strategist who attacked Romney as head of the pro-Newt Gingrich super PAC. "I don't get the sense that anybody really wants him to stay around, and I don't get the sense he wants to say around either."

The GOP inevitably would have moved on from 2012, driven by a lack of authentic admiration for the former Massachusetts governor and a desire to win in 2016. But Romney's comment on a conference call last week that Obama won because he gave "gifts" to African-Americans, Latinos and young people hastened a process of coming-to-terms that took much longer after 1996 and 2008.

The criticism of the "gifts" gaffe is emblematic of the broader desire to "turn the page," as Iowa GOP Gov. Terry Branstad puts it.

For his part, Romney has not spoken publicly since the loss on Nov. 6. The "gifts" comment came on a conference call for top donors. He was last spotted Saturday night at a movie theater near his La Jolla, Calif., home. He went to see the fifth and final installment in the "Twilight" franchise -- an apt metaphor, when most Republicans would prefer he just ride off into the twilight.

University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato said McCain and Dole were well liked by at least some parts of the Republican Party structure.

"I just don't think Romney ever established an emotional connection with much of anybody in the party," said Sabato. "He was essentially a cyborg designed to win the presidency, and when he failed he was placed in the disposal bin."

Following their losses, former nominees like McCain and John Kerry returned to Congress and played substantial roles in policy and politics. Both McCain and Kerry campaigned for their party's nominees this year. Kerry played an even larger role in prepping Obama for the debates as the stand-in for Romney and is now being considered for a Cabinet job in a second Obama term.

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