Romney to NH GOP: Don't vote in anger in the 2016 primaries and nominate someone who can't win

Take it from a guy who lost by more than 120 electoral votes to an incumbent struggling with eight percent unemployment: Electability in a nominee is key.

From ABC’s RICK KLEIN: “Mitt Romney did something interesting last night: He lent his voice to a policy debate that’s roiling his party in Congress. His speech last night, at a New Hampshire GOP fundraiser, included a surprise warning against those (hello, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and even Marco Rubio) threatening a government shutdown in an effort to deny funding to Obamacare. Romney won’t win many points with conservatives with an attack on the tea party’s favored legislative strategy, or a sliver of a defense of Obamacare. But he doesn’t have many points he could win with that crowd, post-election, anyway. More intriguing was his warning not to ‘cast an emotional vote, a protest vote, an anger vote’ in the 2016 primaries. He went on to say ‘there will only be one or perhaps two who could actually win the election in November.’ Romney didn’t name names. Of course, he didn’t have to.”

He also warned against trying to defund ObamaCare by shutting down the government, which is interesting just because him saying that obviously helps the tea partiers who support the idea much more than it does those who oppose it. Which Republicans who regard the shutdown as nutty, like Tom Coburn or McCain, think they’ll be more likely to persuade the base of that by pointing to the fact that Mitt Romney thinks it’s nutty too? All this does is give the Pauls and Cruzes new ammo to show grassroots righties that only the failed establishment old guard, personified by the party’s last nominee, think folding on the big defunding fight is wise. It’s strange to me that Romney doesn’t realize that. Maybe he just doesn’t care, but Dubya at least has the good sense to stay away from backing specific policy proposals for fear that the tainted Bush brand will be used to undermine them.

Speaking of not voting in anger for guys who can’t win, news from South Carolina:

Iowa Rep. Steve King, whose hard line immigration rhetoric has angered some of his fellow Republicans and delighted Democrats eager to keep Hispanic voters in their fold, is quietly planning meetings with political activists in the early presidential primary state of South Carolina, CNN has learned…

If King is curious about seeking the Republican nomination in 2016, as his visit to South Carolina suggests, he would certainly face difficult odds, since no sitting member of the House has been elected president since James Garfield in 1880.

I wonder if the GOP establishment sees a King candidacy as a nightmare or an opportunity. Arguably, with the possible exception of Tom Tancredo, there’s no one who can do more damage singlehandedly to Republican bridge-building with Latinos by jumping into the race than him. The first question he gets at every debate will, invariably, have to do with what he said about illegals with “calves the size of cantaloupes” hauling drugs in the desert. He’ll defend his remarks, albeit maybe with some qualified apology, and inevitably some people in the audience will applaud him, inspiring the equally inevitable breathless headlines the next day, “GOP BACKS KING ON CONTROVERSIAL COMMENTS ON IMMIGRANTS.” Why is this an opportunity, then? Because the other candidates, Marco Rubio especially, will be itching to throw rhetorical roundhouses at him to signal their rejection. That’ll earn them some “Sistah Souljah” praise in the media, which will be useful to the nominee in the general. Which raises a bigger question: How much do the Republican candidates really want to talk about immigration in the primaries? There are obvious reasons why Rubio might not, but on the other hand, if the GOP’s going to re-brand for Latino voters in time for the general, they need to define themselves before the Democrats do it for them. Rubio may decide, paradoxically, that he’s better off long-term talking (carefully) about immigration reform in the primaries and trusting GOP voters to see his efforts on it as an electability bonus than keeping quiet and waiting until the general election to build his image as a Republican reformer.

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David Strom 9:21 PM on February 02, 2023