(CBS News) Over the past few years, it has hardened into something approaching conventional wisdom that the conservative/Tea Party wing is in the process of taking over the GOP. But while the right has certainly asserted itself - particularly in the 2010 midterm elections, with mixed results - the reality is that the Republican Party is now in the process of nominating an establishment figure with a moderate reputation for president. Again.
And just like in 2008, when Sen. John McCain was the nominee, there has not been a significant conservative revolt to the pending nomination of Mitt Romney. Indeed, this week brought an endorsement for Romney from self-anointed Tea Party champion Michele Bachmann, as well as a semi-endorsement from Newt Gingrich, who spent the primary season thundering that Romney does not represent his party. Conservative journalists and commentators, meanwhile, held an off-the-record confab with Romney, and while he reportedly didn't win them over completely, they certainly don't seem to be in the process of mutiny.
This isn't to say there isn't still resistance to Romney. Rick Santorum has notably kept his former rival at arm's length since leaving the race; the conservative media, meanwhile, is certainly not covering the former Massachusetts governor uncritically. But the reality is that despite all the talk of unflinching Tea Partiers, the Republican Party, on a national level, remains pragmatic. The goal, quite simply, is to beat President Obama in November, even if that means accepting a nominee many see as flawed; it's no surprise that the candidate overwhelmingly identified in Republican primary exit polls as the most electable went on to become the nominee. As one attendee at the conservative media meeting told Buzzfeed: "It was facing reality -- what are we going to do? Everybody agrees with Romney that, policy-wise, Obama is a disaster and a threat."
That's why the talk you hear about Romney needing to solidify support among the conservative voters who supported Santorum and Gingrich in the primary is overblown. Mitt Romney is not going to lose the Deep South to Barack Obama; if it were the GOP nominee, a cardboard box could handily defeat the president in the reddest states. There is no groundswell for a conservative third-party candidate to take on Mr. Obama, because conservatives don't want to split the vote and hand the president reelection. There may be a lot of Republicans who see themselves as to the right of their presidential nominee, but it's pretty hard to find any who are seriously looking for an alternative.
It adds up to the fact that while the old guard has lost some control over the party - for proof look no further than Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee, along with a number of House freshmen - the old rules still apply, at least when it comes to the presidential race. (The cracks are showing, but they're on a district- and statewide level.) The establishment wanted the nominee it wanted, and the base is learning to live with him. For a party that some have suggested is being torn asunder by competing factions, that sure looks a lot like unity.