More Ford '76 than Reagan '80, Romney is a transitional figure, both generationally and ideologically. Behind him, the party has an extraordinarily strong bench. In Congress — Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Kelly Ayotte, (the incoming) Ted Cruz and others. And the governors — Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, Nikki Haley, plus former governor Jeb Bush and the soon retiring Mitch Daniels. (Chris Christie is currently in rehab.)
They were all either a little too young or just not personally prepared to run in 2012. No longer. There may not be a Reagan among them, but this generation of rising leaders is philosophically rooted and politically fluent in the new constitutional conservatism.
Ignore the trimmers. There's no need for radical change. The other party thinks it owns the demographic future — counter that in one stroke by fixing the Latino problem. Do not, however, abandon the party's philosophical anchor. In a world where European social democracy is imploding before our eyes, the party of smaller, more modernized government owns the ideological future.
Romney is a good man who made the best argument he could, and nearly won. He would have made a superb chief executive, but he (like the Clinton machine) could not match Barack Obama in the darker arts of public persuasion.
The answer to Romney's failure is not retreat, not aping the Democrats' patchwork pandering. It is to make the case for restrained, rationalized and reformed government in stark contradistinction to Obama's increasingly unsustainable big-spending, big-government paternalism.
Republicans: No whimpering. No whining. No reinvention when none is needed. Do conservatism, but do it better. There's a whole generation of leaders ready to do just that.
Charles Krauthammer's email address is email@example.com.
WASHINGTON POST WRITERS GROUP