Romney's the party leader, but not the standard bearer
TAMPA — Mitt Romney on Tuesday officially became the leader of the Republican Party. What's unclear is how much it's really his Republican Party.
Talk to delegates in and around the Tampa Bay Times Forum, and they're more likely to gush about Chris Christie or Marco Rubio than their nominee. Ask them to explain Romney's agenda and ideology and they point enthusiastically to running mate Paul Ryan's.
"The party's not defined by the top of the ticket anymore. The party is defined by the broader community of people who choose to associate and participate,'' said Matt Kibbe, chairman of FreedomWorks, the grass roots organizing group aligned with tea party conservatives. "It's not so much about Mitt Romney, it's just a different world."
Romney is well positioned to win the White House in 69 days, and all signs point to a party united and energized to beat President Barack Obama.
Still, he looks less like the party standard-bearer than any nominee in decades.
It's a reflection of lingering uncertainty about the candidate, the growing strength of conservative grass roots activism and the changing nature of politics in the social media era.