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Who will be new face of the GOP?

Mitt Romney's loss and withdraw from politics has created a leadership vacuum in the Republican Party. From Gov. Chris Christie, to Sen. Marco Rubio, to Gov. Bobby Jindal, there's no shortage of hopefuls to fill Romney's shoes.

By Steven PeoplesAssociated Press / December 2, 2012

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal speaks in Hot Springs, Ark in July. Mitt Romney’s shadow looms over a GOP in disarray. Republican officials in Washington and elsewhere concede that Romney’s immediate withdrawal from politics, while welcome by most, has created a leadership void.

Danny Johnston/AP/File

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Boston

Mitt Romney's shadow looms over a Republican Party in disarray.

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The face of the GOP for much of the last year, the failed presidential candidate has been a virtual ghost since his defeat Nov. 6. He has quietly weathered the fallout of the campaign from the seclusion of his Southern California home, emerging only momentarily for a private lunch at the White House with President Barack Obama on Thursday.

His loss and immediate withdrawal from politics, while welcomed by most, has created a leadership vacuum within his party. It's left the GOP rudderless, lacking an overarching agenda and mired in infighting, with competing visions for the way ahead, during what may be the most important policy debate in a generation.

In his final meeting with campaign staffers at his Boston headquarters, Romney promised to remain "a strong voice for the party," according to those in attendance. But so far he has offered little to the Capitol Hill negotiations over potential tax increases and entitlement program changes that could affect virtually every American.

He declined to comment on the Treasury Department's recent refusal to declare China a currency manipulator, which was one of his signature issues over the past 18 months. He made no public remarks after his meeting with Obama, quickly fading away, again.

"If I had to tell you somebody who is the leader of the party right now, I couldn't," said Amy Kremer, chairman of the Tea Party Express, which is among the conservative factions vying for increased influence. "There's a void right now."

There's no shortage of Republicans maneuvering to fill it, from House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio to a number of high-profile politicians looking to boost their national profiles, if not position themselves for a 2016 presidential run. That group could include former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, son and brother of presidents, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Republican officials acknowledge party tensions between the moderate and conservative wings, as well as the tea party and evangelical constituencies. But they dismiss the leadership vacuum as a standard political reality for the losing party in the presidential race. Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, never had a strong relationship with the conservative base, given his more moderate past.

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