Not the first time lately that Ryan’s swooned at the thought of another Romney candidacy. In August he said he was so gung-ho for Romney 3.0 or 8.0 or whichever version we’re on now that he’d drive Mitt’s campaign bus if need be. But saying it two months ago, when the prospect of Romney actually running was still a pipe dream, and saying it now, where we’re on dude-I-can’t-believe-this-might-be-happening red alert, are two different things. After listening to Ryan here, now I’m wondering if Romney’s entrance would actually clear the field in the center (assuming Jeb Bush doesn’t jump in first, of course). Rubio’s still going to run, but he’s not a pure centrist candidate; he’ll run as a center-right guy who can appeal to RINOs and true conservatives alike. I’m thinking more about Chris Christie. Would Christie reluctantly pass (again) fearing that he’d be no match for Romney? And is that maybe the point of this whole Romney boomlet lately — convincing Christie, a damaged candidate, that he shouldn’t jump in and screw up the center’s chances of beating Ted Cruz and Rand Paul?

No one on the right will cry at the thought of Christie being muscled out of the race by Mitt. But it does make me a little misty to think of a candidate as solid as Ryan being nudged out. Ryan’s lost some luster among righties because he backed Boehner’s lame House budget last year but I prefer him to Mitt: Just for starters, if he wins, you’d have a guy as president who’s built his political credibility on the urgency of entitlement reform. He’s got midwestern appeal, loads of name recognition from the 2012 run, and none of Romney’s “stiff rich guy” baggage in the general. He’d be acceptable to both wings of the party too in a way that few of the other heavyweights in the race would be. (Rubio, again, is an exception.) If Romney getting in means prominent next-gen Republicans sitting out, that’s reason enough to hope he passes, no?

That said, I don’t agree with all of Ace’s criticisms of Romney 18.0 today. He’s dead right that Mitt Romney, alleged managerial genius, ended up being out-organized and out-campaigned by Barack Obama and his big-data hivemind. But I don’t think the base would be as incensed about another run as Ace does. Last time Romney was the “anyone but X” candidate because of his RomneyCare record and endless track record of flip-flopping; all of that information is priced into his stock now, though, and he’s almost certainly not the worst-case scenario for righties. (See, again, Bush or Christie.) And he has, of course, been proven prescient about various policy matters since 2012, starting with the threat from Russia. Conservatives might not feel warm and fuzzy towards him and they’re bound to be exasperated if he somehow squashes Cruz, but I think they could live with a guy who’ll be running a GOP told-ya-so campaign at the left’s expense.

Click the image to watch.

pr2