I may expand on this later...I am sympathetic to the people who bought into the idea of the Romney campaign but, as happened to those of us who backed Rudy or Fred, the time has come to accept that the reality of the campaign was never what it was cracked up to be.
In Mitt's case, he just wasn't the champion of conservative principles and enforcer of conservative orthodoxy he played on the trail. He was and is a pragmatic businessman, and a very good one. I have argued that Rudy should have sold a modified position on Roe v Wade not as a change of heart but as a principled compromise. A similar approach might have worked for Mitt as well on some of the issues he shifted on. Instead, while Rudy wouldn't move far enough, Mitt tried too hard on too many fronts and ended up with nobody believing that he was the guy he was running as.
A hamburger is a delicious and popular meal. A grilled chicken sandwich is nutritious and reasonably tasty. You can sell a hamburger, and you can sell a grilled chicken sandwich; both have their virtues. But as anyone with a marketing background could have told you, you can't get people to buy a grilled chicken sandwich by convincing them that it is a hamburger.
What next? I had been thinking that, with Romney likely to be looking for what to do next to build credibility with conservatives, a logical next step whether he intends to pursue national office or simply find a way to do some real public good would be to move back home to Michigan and run for Governor. After all, Romney's core strength - his business acumen - is the one thing Michigan needs most desperately after two terms of Jennifer Granholm.
Sadly, however, Michigan's Constitution requires that the Governor must "have been a registered elector in this state for four years next preceding his election." Since the next race is in 2010, there will not be sufficient time for Romney to establish residency. It's a shame; Mitt could have said he was coming home to the state he was born and raised in because Michigan needs him (which would have been true). He would have had to run on basically the same positions as in this race. He would probably have needed to promise not to run in 2012, but could keep his eyes on 2016, which given his health and vigor is not implausible (he'd be 68). And if he could actually have become the second American (after Sam Houston) to become GOV of two states and then turned around the MI business climate while staying essentially faithful to his currently stated principles, he would have been able to make a convincing case down the road as a tested, proven leader.
My guess is, the likelihood is that if Romney is planning to run for president again, he will probably do so via the John Edwards path of spending four more years campaigning without adding to his short resume in public office and thus without a realistic mechanism for proving his conservative bona fides.
Oh, and before I forget, I'll throw up one last link to the fundraiser: