Boston Globe: Looks like Mitt's running again

Maybe, maybe not. But that’s a sexier lede than the real point of the story, which is that Romney’s using his PAC not so much to get Republican challengers elected as to keep himself out in front of crowds and scratch the backs of incumbents who could prove useful to him later. He’s a politician. Surprise.

According to the Globe analysis, he spent $244,000 on contributions to congressional and other candidates between April and the November elections. He has spent more than twice as much on staff salaries and contracts to hire professional fund-raisers, who are compiling contributor lists that will serve Romney well in a future presidential campaign.

In essence, Romney is financing a political enterprise that he can use to remain a national GOP leader and use as a springboard should he decide to launch another presidential bid for 2012…

[T]he committee’s track record of spending most of the money on other expenses, such as Romney’s political staff, raises questions about written fund-raising solicitations he has made that were mailed to potential contributors…

“The main purpose of Mitt Romney’s PAC is to enable him to travel around the country on virtually a full-time basis to campaign and raise funds for candidates and to promote policies that will strengthen America,” Fehrnstrom said…

Although Romney raised dire warnings of Democrats “spending millions” to defeat Republicans last fall, the list of candidates who received funds is dominated by incumbents who were either unopposed or headed to an easy victory, and who also endorsed his presidential candidacy.

All perfectly legal and predictable, especially if you remember how Mitt ran the Republican Governors Association, but worth noting anyway to counter the rumors that Palinmania has chased him from the field. The more I think about it, the better positioned I think he is for 2012: For voters worried that the party’s too southern and evangelical, he’s a natural alternative to Huckabee, and for voters worried about the party not taking policy seriously enough, especially economic policy, he’s a natural alternative to Palin. He’s a relatively rare creature among Republicans today — a social conservative whose chief appeal doesn’t lie in his social conservatism. Pawlenty, an evangelical, casts himself in the same mold, devoting far more of his public rhetoric to economic policy than to “values.” Huck’s tried to follow suit by getting out in front in opposing the bailouts, but his pedigree as a minister and the “Christian leader” nonsense from last year will always frame how he’s perceived. The only question is whether he’s willing to blow $40 million more on what might be another busted grab for the brass ring. Exit question: If Huck and Palin both jump in, will Mitt lurch to the center on social issues? He can’t compete with them for social cons, so he might as well try to capture the center. But if he does that, after having already been centrist-ish when he ran for Senate against Teddy in 1994 and then tacked right as governor, won’t his credibility be completely destroyed (assuming it isn’t already)?