TAMPA, Fla.- This wasn't the scene Newt Gingrich envisioned for himself at the Republican National Convention.
Instead of delivering an acceptance speech for the GOP presidential nomination, Gingrich on Monday was playing the twin roles of professor and cheerleader at a seminar he was hosting at a hotel away from the convention hall.
The former House Speaker defended Romney on issues like Medicare just months after savaging Romney on some of those same issues in a Republican primary that was Gingrich's most audacious and probably last political campaign.
Past acrimony aside, the Romney campaign is embracing Gingrich, who they see as someone who can energize the party faithful by championing bold, conservative ideas, much as he did while leading the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress.
Gingrich isn't just teaching his "Newt University" seminars at the convention. He and his wife, Callista, will both address the convention Thursday.
Still, the role remains a consolation prize for the former congressman from Georgia who has always relished the limelight and who held himself up as the true conservative alternative to Romney during the primary.
"Newt is very much like that crazy uncle," one senior Republican attending the convention told The Washington Examiner. "You want to keep him close by -- but not too close -- so you can make sure he stays in line."
Taking to the podium on the first day of "Newt U" on Monday, Gingrich sought to dispel what he called Democratic myths about health care, particularly Medicare.
Romney's running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, was the architect of a Republican budget proposal that would have transformed Medicare into a program that helped beneficiaries buy private insurance. President Obama and other Democrats have charged that the Republican plan would "end Medicare as we know it."
Gingrich himself is a critic of the Ryan plan, once declaring it "right-wing social engineering." But he cautioned other Republicans to respond to those kinds of attacks in a "cheerful and positive" manner, much as former President Ronald Reagan would.
Though Romney bested Gingrich months ago, he has since adopted a policy focus very much in the Gingrich mold. Romney has repeatedly hammered Obama for what he calls a weakening of the work requirements for welfare recipients, an attack that mirrors Gingrich's claim that Obama is a "food stamp president."
But some questioned Gingrich's impact on a race that will be decided on political turf not overly receptive to his fiery message.
"He didn't do well outside of the South," said Charles Bullock, a political scientist at the University of Georgia. "He wasn't a big player. But Romney wants a unified party and this helps."