Mitt Romney Passes Up Chances to Lead the Republican Party

On social issues, the GOP extreme sits firmly in the driver's seat.

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On Friday, senior Romney adviser Eric Fehnstrom claimed his boss "has a record of taking on intolerant voices within his own party."

"He denounced some of the poisonous language that is being used by some of the same people who had criticized Ric Grenell's appointment," Fehnstrom said in an interview on MSNBC with Chuck Todd, referring to a Values Voters Summit last fall when Romney condemned Fischer for making anti-Mormon comments.

One GOP strategist says other Republican presidential nominees, like George W. Bush, had a far easier time grabbing the mantle of the party and taking over as leader than Romney.

"There was no question about whether or not George Bush was a conservative, he already came from a family dynasty which was extremely helpful to him," the strategist says. "I think it's a push-pull. When you are leading the party you have to fit within the mold of that party."

Where Romney will fall, remains to be seen, but DiPeso says his ability to lead the party towards the center is key to winning the White House.

"He has to have a broader outreach. They know that, commentators know that, everybody knows that. It's just a matter of how he makes that happen," he says.

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  • Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at rmetzler@usnews.com or follow her on Twitter.