With postmortems on the Romney campaign piling up faster than broken promises of relief to Sandy's victims, there is time before the "big deal" gets cut and the national misery deepens to reflect briefly on what Mitt Romney did right -- and there was much he did right.
Romney saved the House of Representatives from reverting to Nancy Pelosi's rule. A bad enough showing from the GOP nominee, or even an uninspired replay of 1996 or 2008, would have left dozens of House freshmen dangling. National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions runs a great operation, but the top of the ticket inspires or deters the base from turning out. Mitt Romney got the base together and motivated. And thank God he did.
Romney also assured the succession of the party's leadership with his choice of Paul Ryan. Had he gone with Tim Pawlenty (my choice) or Rob Portman (many others' choice), there would be a very complicated primary ahead in 2015-2016. Now we know the GOP is going young. We don't know if Ryan, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, or which of the other bright young stars of the conservative movement will emerge as its leader, but Romney delivered his party to the next generation of pro-freedom, pro-growth, pro-family and pro-life leaders.
Romney laid out a vision of a growth strategy and an approach to governing that future Republicans must embrace. The party cannot become a grim group of green eye-shade wearing accountants but must instead keep reminding people that 4 and 5 percent economic growth has been and can be again the norm in America.
Romney also began the argument with the Left that success is good and wealth is not evil. What matters most is how personal wealth is used. Romney's massive generosity and personal good works -- dragged out of him reluctantly by the campaign's exigency -- set a standard by which candidates should be judged.
Romney also did his best to talk about serious issues, despite unserious mainstream media coverage, even to the point of writing his own book and meeting often with idea people through his long six years of campaigning. Others should do the same. When Romney made the long slog through the primaries, he got better and better because he had been making arguments and answering questions for years. The first debate against Obama was a decisive triumph of substance over empty rhetoric. GOP leaders of the future should watch that debate again and again.
And Romney showed the world that it is possible to be both a public servant and a wonderful family man, modeling through his life and with his amazing wife Ann and wonderful sons and their wives and his gaggle of grandchildren that putting family first means an enduring happiness that cannot be upset even when life's inevitable defeats arrive.
Romney showed that private virtue brings happiness and success, if not the presidency. This is a lasting contribution.
Romney surpassed his father's career and broke through new barriers for fellow members of his Mormon faith. But he is blessed to have his father's example before him. George Romney was also a success in everything except the quest for the White House. But disappointed in that, he turned to even more service and to the wonderful comforts of family. Romney knows there is much life left after a loss in a race for the White House. He has already seen how that is best done.
Some smart institution will wait a month or so and then ask Romney to lead it. It could be a university or a foundation, or the American Olympic movement, or even his newly adopted California as it seeks to bring the summer games back to the USA.
Whatever it is, he will lead it to success, and those who know get to know him in the course of that effort will say, like all of us who already do: How did the country miss this chance?
Examiner Columnist Hugh Hewitt is a law professor at Chapman University Law School and a nationally syndicated radio talk show host who blogs daily at HughHewitt.com.