Mitt Romney needs to take command of his party before the Republican National Convention or his chances of winning the White House could fizzle, senior Republican strategists say.
"The question is, will Romney define the Republican party or will the Republican party define Romney?" argues a former senior adviser to a Republican president. "I don't think we'll know the answer to that until Tampa," where the convention will be held in August. The former adviser, who has remained neutral in the GOP nominating race, says Romney needs to use the period between now and the convention to demonstrate toughness, determination and leadership.
A new CBS/New York Times poll, released Wednesday, has the race between Romney and President Obama tied, with each man holding the support of 46 percent of registered voters.
A looming problem is whether Romney can unify, or at least pacify, the many factions in the GOP. Many on the right, including Tea Party activists, still doubt the depth of Romney's commitment to conservative policies. And Romney's former rivals for the nomination could also make trouble if they insist on trying to toughen the Republican platform on social issues. Romney would prefer to emphasize the need to strengthen the economy and create jobs, which are the top priorities for voters.
Another concern is how much cooperation Romney will get from former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who dropped out of the race last week, but has a sizeable bloc of delegates. There is a similar concern among Romney supporters about how cooperative the two remaining GOP presidential candidates, former House Speaker Newt Ginrgich and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, will be.
Romney has such a big lead in nominating delegates, campaign funds, and organization that he is considered the presumptive nominee.