C’mon, you know I had to blog it. I’m thisclose to starting an official RomneyWatch feature for this subject on Hot Air. Although, given the conditions she lays out in the clip, I should probably call it JebWatch instead. (JebWatch alert: He’s headed to the early primary state of South Carolina next month to raise money for Nikki Haley.)
If memory serves, Ann was the Romney who was most adamantly opposed to Mitt running again in 2012. The 2008 campaign had been disappointing, grueling physically and emotionally, and she didn’t want the family to endure another ordeal. She came around eventually. You would think that would make it easy for her to give Cavuto a firm banish-it-from-your-mind “no” here, but she doesn’t. A little googling reveals this isn’t the first time she’s held the door open to 2016 just a crack either. Almost a year ago, she told a Massachusetts newspaper that it would take “extraordinary” circumstances for Mitt to run again. How extraordinary? Pretty darned extraordinary:
Though she did not absolutely rule it out, Ann Romney said there would need to be “an absolute collapse of the economy or something dramatic that it would say ‘We need you, Mitt, to fix this.'”
“But it would be a very extraordinary thing to bring me back into it,” she said.
A year later, we seem to have moved from “total economic collapse” as a catalyst for Romney 2016 to “Jeb Bush not running.” But look — from the establishmentarian perspective, that logic isn’t entirely self-serving. What unites the Bush/Romney monied wing of the party, the people who always pick the nominee, is fear of the tea-party tide. The conservatives in the 2016 field won’t be a clown show. Rand Paul is a serious candidate. So is Ted Cruz. The donor class needs someone similarly formidable from the center-right to fend them off. Jeb Bush seems to be their anointed one, if only because Romney’s already a proven loser, but there are no headache-free substitutes in place if Jeb passes. They’ll back Christie if they have to but he’s risky; he may rub heartland conservatives the wrong way and no one’s sure if he’s out of the woods on Bridgegate yet. They could back Rubio in a pinch too, but Rubio’s compromised by his support for amnesty and the fact that he has no experience edge on Paul or Cruz. If Jeb sits out, Mitt is arguably the strongest hand the donor class can play. He’s got wealthy friends, name recognition, and residual goodwill among Republican voters (although not the more conservative segment of those voters). Important people will try to talk him into this if Bush is a no-go. Listen to Ann Romney and decide for yourself how strongly Mitt will resist.
As you watch, pay attention to the lead-in to the 2016 question, where Ann Romney talks about ISIS and what Mitt would have done differently. I wonder if the feeling of vindication they must be enjoying right now on so many policy points has convinced her, and him, that Mitt really is the guy to right America’s ship and therefore has a duty to run. Hmmmm. Exit question: So, who’s going to be his VP next time? It’d be weird if he didn’t choose Paul Ryan again, but Ryan’s not quite the tea-party heartthrob that he was two years ago. If Romney’s looking to unite the wings of the party, he might need to go more populist. Besides, if he does run, one of his key goals will be to shake the perception that he’s nothing but a retread. Bringing in a new VP candidate would be one cosmetic way to do that.