One way to look at Dubya’s claim that Jeb Bush is 50/50 about running is that that means Romney is 50/50, or close to 50/50, too. If Jeb says no, the door is open. And more importantly, even if it’s only open a crack now, Romney’s inner circle is working hard to kick it in.
You guys need to stop resisting this. Embrace destiny.
In the days after the election, a group of Romney supporters began circulating a memo that compared the success of his midterm endorsements with those made by Hillary Rodham Clinton, the front-runner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.
The documents — which were obtained by The Washington Post — concluded that two out of three Romney candidates won their elections, compared with one in three for Clinton.
According to three Republicans who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid, Romney’s associates are convinced that if former Florida governor Jeb Bush does not run, Romney could consider another White House bid. He has told friends that he feels positive about the likely GOP field, but also worries that many of the contenders may not have what it takes to beat Clinton…
The Republicans familiar with Romney’s inner circle said the medium is part of the message. To nudge the data-driven Romney, they are deliberately charting returns and his recent political activity in Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, knowing that numbers are the best way to win his attention. In chats with him, they also are talking up his standing in the party, which they argue has been bolstered by his work for the party this year.
“So what?” you say. “All that proves is that Romney’s aides want him to run. That doesn’t say anything about his own intentions.” Fair enough — except that WaPo also reports that the man himself made more than 80(!) phone calls on election night to Republican winners around the country to congratulate them on their victories. Why would a man who’d campaigned tirelessly around the country for Republican candidates choose to call them instead of waiting for them to call him to say thanks? Why would he be so comprehensive in his calling instead of phoning a few choice candidates whom he knows well, like Charlie Baker in Massachusetts? You know why: Because he’s thinking of running and was eager to remind the new crop of GOP power brokers that he did them a favor, just in case he needs a little favor from them in return around a year from now. (Especially since Chris Christie and Rand Paul will be asking the same group of people for a similar favor.) Realistically there’s no other explanation for a “retired” pol to be working the phones like that.
Longtime Romney skeptic Phil Klein sees the light on the train in the distance and begs Republicans to get off the tracks while there’s still time. This time it’s a conservative or bust, says Klein:
The deeper issue is that when the Republican nominee is somebody who conservatives are suspicious of, the nominee has to spend the whole primary trying to convince conservatives that he or she agrees with them, and then the general election constantly reassuring them that he or she isn’t going to abandon the right just because the nomination has been sewn up. This leads to incoherent campaign messaging.
The popular myth is that a winning candidate has to play to the base in the primaries and then move to the center in the general election. But the reality is that winning candidates in both parties have tended to maintain a relatively consistent theme throughout their campaigns…
When base voters implicitly trust a candidate, they’re more likely to give that candidate the benefit of the doubt when he or she tries to communicate a message to appeal to the broader electorate, because they assume that deep down that candidate “gets it” and is “one of us.” A candidate who is constantly having to prove something to the base — from the declaration of candidacy to the waning hours of Election Day — is guaranteed to lose.
Nominate a guy like Cruz and he can spend the entire campaign pandering to the middle since conservatives feel 100 percent sure he’ll govern as a conservative in office. Obama benefited from the same logic on the left six years ago: He could reassure Rick Warren and evangelicals that he believed in traditional marriage with nary a peep from his progressive base because none of them thought he was serious. He was a loud and proud liberal, no matter he said in his attempt to get elected. He’d support gay marriage later even if he couldn’t support it sooner. Cruz will have that same advantage from the right. Will anyone else have it, though? Even conservative candidates like Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal, I think, might feel pressure to out-Cruz Cruz in the primaries by tacking further right than they’d prefer. I’m not sure anyone except him is above suspicion by grassroots righties.
Back to the WaPo piece, though. How likely it is that Mitt Romney, alleged managerial genius, would be swayed by a memo showing that he campaigned for many more winners on Tuesday night than Hillary did? Of course he campaigned for more winners than her; so did Christie, so did Paul. It was a wave! And if anyone should know that you can’t draw deep lessons about presidential elections from the midterm results, it’s Romney. One of his legacies will be that he somehow managed to lose badly against an incumbent president with unemployment at eight percent in between two of the most mammoth GOP electoral waves in modern American history. If he looks at that memo and concludes that it says something serious about his viability against the Clinton machine — well, let’s just say the performance of Project ORCA will start to make a lot more sense.