Mitt Romney’s lurch to the center, E.J. Dionne argues today, is proof that the Republican Party didn’t really mean all that tea party stuff.

In 2010, the tea party was the hot new excuse to get really angry, dress in silly outfits, yell at elected officials and pretend all the country’s economic problems were the fault of this one guy. It was a great uniter for the various shattered remnants of the Republican coalition, all of whom could pretend they had nothing to do with anything that happened prior to 2008 and just suddenly got really mad about the deficit and maybe birth certificates. It was a wonderful time.

But, Dionne argues, it’s outlived its usefulness as a general election tool. The general voting population, he theorizes, longs for Romney to tell them he’s more of a centrist. And maybe they even want a centrist to govern. It would be impossible to tell, given the general acceptance that nothing the candidates say now will have much to do with how they’ll do the job.

Romney, perfectly lubricated weather vane that he is, twisting left and right without squeak or squeal, knows feigning centrism is his best bet. Dionne says this means the tea party stuff was all an act and can now be put to bed, but commenters aren’t so sure which part is the act.

jimb says what matters is that Romney will empower the tea party in the legislature:

Don’t assume that we’re seeing the REAL Romney now. And even if it is, a GOP controlled Congress would almost certainly legislate much in accord with the Tea Party agenda, and Romney would sign the legislation.

HGF78 says the tea party was an exercise in rebranding, not in policy change:

There never was a Tea Party. It was a creation to keep the Republican Party from splitting. You are not a party if you are part of another party. I remember the first Tea Party shin-ding I saw. When does grassroots campaigns have preprinted signs? The best was when I was getting Republican candidates calling on the auto-dialer saying to show up to a Tea Party event.

username says Romney’s distance from the tea party keeps it pure:

NO tea party that is legit supports Romney. He’s too much like Obama. This isn’t a football game, this is our country.

Romney and Reince and the RNC corruption sealed their own fate with their liberal positions.

Centsorsense argues that the tea party killed themselves over the debt ceiling, meaning Romney couldn’t run with them if he wanted to:

Conservatives like the Tea Party caused everyone to lose money in their 401k during the debt debacle. There is nothing like watching $10,000 disappear to change your political views.

Or maybe it was the Christian Conservatives who were picking on rape victims.

swanjame says even if Romney loses, a tea party House can still win:

It is highly likely that Obama will win the election which will be status quo, not defeat, for the right wing.

Whether they win, lose, or draw will probably be judged by whether they gain, lose, or break even in Congress. I wish articles like these would give more information on those trends. If Washington remains in gridlock they will have won.

And Butteoid links this whole episode to the Supreme Court, because easily shifting from one identity to another (for tea partyers and Romney) is only feasible when there are many deep founts of money to chose from:

I wonder if the conservative justices on the Supreme Court are enjoying the irony that their Citizens United ruling flooded the Romney primary campaign with cash that allowed him to destroy every truly severe conservative in the GOP clown car and the last man standing is a Massachusetts liberal (by GOP standards, at least).

So what really matters to PostScript and voters, is whether the above Romney metaphor “perfectly lubricated weather vane,” courtesy of Jon Huntsman, is a better analogy than “Etch A Sketch.” As in, one needs to be shaken, and the other points in a direction even if there’s no wind! Competing symbols of vacillation and repackaging won’t do. Washington demands clarity. Vote for your favorite below, or propose one for Obama.