Romney chief political strategist defends candidate in op-ed

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The op-ed was published hours after the White House announced the former Republican nominee would join President Obama for a private lunch Thursday at the White House. In his victory speech on election night, and again during his first post-election press conference, Obama said he hoped to meet with the former governor to discuss ways they could work together to address the nation's economic woes.

Romney is also expected to meet earlier in the day with his former running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). In his op-ed, Stevens argues the selection of Ryan shook up the national discussion of entitlement reform and will have a lasting impact on Republican efforts to push for change.

"When much of what passes for a political intelligentsia these days predicted that the selection of Rep. Paul Ryan meant certain death on the third rail of Medicare and Social Security, Mitt Romney brought the fight to the Democrats and made the rational, persuasive case for entitlement reform that conservatives have so desperately needed," Stevens writes. "The nation listened, thought about it — and on Election Day, Mitt Romney carried seniors by a wide margin. And it’s safe to say that the entitlement discussion will never be the same."

The Romney campaign has been heavily criticized by party insiders in the wake of the election, where Romney managed to only flip two states — Indiana and North Carolina, traditional Republican strongholds — from President Obama's 2008 campaign. And while Stevens acknowledges that the president ran a "better" campaign, he cautions against reading too much into the loss.

"Losing is just losing," Stevens writes. "It’s not a mandate to throw out every idea that the candidate championed, and I would hope it’s not seen as an excuse to show disrespect for a good man who fought hard for values we admire."

Romney aides have been particularly sensitive to Republican piling-on after a post-election conference call with top donors, during which the former candidate attributed his loss to "gifts" the president gave to black, Hispanic and young voters.

Top Romney surrogates, including Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, later publicly denounced the remark.

"I absolutely reject that notion," Jindal said, according to the Washington Examiner, adding it was "absolutely wrong."

But in his op-ed, Stevens channels Romney's argument to say Obama turned traditional Democratic problems — "being too liberal and too dependent on minorities" — into advantages. And he suggests that the media felt "morally conflicted about being critical" of the first African American president.

He also praises Romney for handling "the unequaled pressures of a campaign with a natural grace and good humor that contrasted sharply with the angry bitterness of his critics."

"Yes, the Republican Party has problems, but as we go forward, let’s remember that any party that captures the majority of the middle class must be doing something right," Stevens says.

Since the election, Romney has been seen in public only sporadically, with Twitter pictures of the former candidate pumping gas and visiting Disneyland surfacing online.

But the Associated Press reported Wednesday that Romney is expected to soon move into an office for the Boston-area venture capital firm Solamere Capital, which was co-founded by his son, Tagg, and campaign finance director Spencer Zwick.