Romney’s post-election behavior has been, in a word, small. Never again, likely, will his voice and influence be as powerful as they are now. Yet rather than stepping forward to help find a way out of the fiscal standoff, or to help his party rebuild itself, he delivered a perfunctory concession speech, told wealthy donors that Obama won by giving “gifts” to minorities, then avoided the press at a private lunch with President Obama. …

A former adviser, Eric Fehrnstrom, told Rucker that Romney will “be involved in some fashion” in public service. And nobody can begrudge Romney some downtime. But his failure to engage now, at a time when he could have the most clout, reinforces the impression that his candidacy was less about principle and patriotism than about him. …

In the fiscal-cliff debate, it’s not clear that John Boehner, Mitch McConnell or anybody else is in control of Republican backbenchers. GOP lawmakers such as Sen. Saxby Chambliss (Ga.) and Rep. Tom Cole (Okla.) are treated as heretics for stating the obvious need to compromise. Even in defeat, Romney’s voice could be enough to return his party to reason.