(Photo: Reuters/Sean Gardner)
Just two weeks after the presidential election, Mitt Romney has already faded into the background and the GOP has already begun looking for new faces to take his place.
Presidential candidates usually spend decades in the trenches, coming up through their state party ranks or making the gradual climb from office to office to build a strong base. But Romney did neither. Although he was a successful entrepreneur, turn-around artist and governor, he developed virtually no following outside of a close circle of advisors.
"I just don't think Romney ever established an emotional connection with much of anybody in the party," said the University of Virginia's Larry Sabato. "He was essentially a cyborg designed to win the presidency, and when he failed he was placed in the disposal bin."
And unlike other notable presidential candidates, Romney has no office or position to fall back on.
Most irritating to the party was Romney's gaffe after the election when he blamed his loss on President Obama extending "gifts" to minority groups in order to get their support.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal pounced on the remark, calling it "absolutely wrong."
"I don't think that represents where we are as a party and where we're going as a party," the governor said at the Republican Governors Association meeting in Las Vegas.
"That has got to be one of the most fundamental takeaways from this election: If we're going to continue to be a competitive party and win elections on the national stage and continue to fight for our conservative principles, we need two messages to get out loudly and clearly: One, we are fighting for 100 percent of the votes, and secondly, our policies benefit every American who wants to pursue the American dream. Period. No exceptions."
Jindal, like other GOP notables, came to the quick conclusion that the party has to appeal to a much broader and non-white audience if it has any chance of winning a national election in the near future.
Pundits who have written volumes of articles about the recent GOP loss point out that the new and reinvented party needs to look like Jindal, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio or New Mexico Gov. Susan Martinez. Martinez joined her colleagues by criticizing Romney's "gift" comments, making her opinion known that immigration would need to rise to the top of the GOP's to-do list.
"That unfortunately is what sets us back as a party – our comments that are not thought through carefully," said Martinez, who is of Mexican descent.
The Weekly Standards Bill Kristol points out that that frustration with Romney may stem from the fact that almost everyone thought Romney was going to win. Such thoughts were not as apparent in 2008 and 1996 when Sens. John McCain and Bob Dole were carrying the mantle.
"So there's perhaps a particularly strong desire among Republicans to let his campaign disappear down the memory hole," Kristol said in an emailed statement to Politico.
Rubio was the first candidate to make it to Iowa after the election and it's a safe bet he'll make the Hawkeye State a regular pit stop as he crisscrosses the nation in the next two years as he seeks to finish the bridges Romney never completed building. Others are expected to follow suit.