When asked earlier in the week who would get to speak aboard that perfect venue [the USS Midway] – a grand seagoing symbol of America’s military might — an RNC official told The Washington Times no speaker was scheduled. There would be just a band for the reception for members, guest and donors.
Just as suddenly, the RNC announced Mr. Romney requested and was granted time to deliver a few remarks to those same members, guests and major GOP donors aboard the carrier, while the band took a break.
Some big names are set to speak, but the person who seems to have people buzzing is former Masschusetts governor Mitt Romney. He made headlines when he said he’s thinking about a third run for president. He’s scheduled to speak Friday.
“The big news was that he was coming here. It was a last-minute decision and I think he obviously has some news he wants to make. We’ll see,” Kukowski said.
The latest Economist/YouGov Poll gives Mitt Romney the lead when registered voters who describe themselves as Republicans are asked who they would like to win the 2016 GOP presidential nomination. And his margin is wide – more than twice as many Republicans choose him as select the next highest-ranked Republican, Florida Governor Jeb Bush. When Republicans are asked to choose between Bush and Romney, Romney leads by two to one.
Good feelings about Romney are near universal among Republicans. More than eight in ten have a favorable opinion of the former Massachusetts Governor. Only 12% are not favorable. Those are the best rankings for any of the possible GOP candidates included in the Economist/YouGov Poll.
We do not know if Jeb Bush can win the Republican nomination. But we do know Mitt Romney can unite his party. By the end of his 2008 campaign, he was the conservative alternative to John McCain. In 2012, he became the establishment’s alternative to a number of conservatives. The hints dropped by Romney’s people about Jeb’s weaknesses, particuarly that his signature issues of education and immigration put him too much at odds with the primary electorate, are persuasive. Romney made Rick Perry, who seemed generally more conservative than Romney, pay dearly for being to Romney’s left on immigration.
But there’s more. A Romney 2016 campaign will be even further removed from the late Bush years, which were a disaster and an electoral albatross for the GOP. The further Republicans get away from the heart palpitations of the Dow’s collapse, the better they will do…
He seems like a man who senses a heavy burden of destiny on him. The scene in the extremely sympathetic documentary Mitt in which he says he has done little in comparison with his father showed an eye-watering humility. “He’s the real deal,” Romney says, while talking down his own achievements in a way that discomfited his own sons.
It’s easy to imagine the man from that scene framing his loss in 2012 as the kind of purifying humiliation that prepares him for the awesome responsibility of the White House.
One source close to Romney, who has spoken with him about this calculation, puts it this way: “This is about the burning ambition of a guy who believes he would be a great president. He believes he is the right guy for the job. Period. It’s not complicated.”…
[H]ere’s what is already obvious: Republicans see Hillary Clinton as probably inevitable as the Democratic nominee and completely gettable as their opponent. They believe the Democrats can’t duplicate the Obama coalition without Obama. They understand the gender gap will grow, but they figure Clinton’s liabilities will grow, too — as a candidate and as a former secretary of state.
“Romney was a poor candidate up against a machine and he got 47% of the vote,” says a Democratic strategist. “I don’t blame them for thinking they can win.”
Rudy Giuliani sat atop the national polls for a year, but by the time Florida—the first state he wanted to seriously contest—rolled around, the race had passed by him. Maybe Romney could box out Bush and Christie long enough for momentum to carry him, though they would presumably try to do better in the early states than Giuliani did.
Once nominated, Romney could run a fall campaign built on the following message: You may not like me, but I am a fixer of institutions with financial problems—Bain, the Olympics, Massachusetts—and can fix the U.S. government. A noncrazy Ross Perot who will get under the hood and get it done, but with some actual experience in government…
I don’t believe that anything I just sketched out is terribly likely, and don’t know if Romney does, either. Romney’s candidacy frankly makes the most sense if you believe he is more interested in preventing Bush or Christie’s nomination than securing his own.
“I rather agree with the [Wall Street] Journal this morning, which sort of lacerated Romney,” Murdoch said in reference to an editorial in the paper, which he owns. “He had his chance, he mishandled it, you know? I thought Romney was a terrible candidate.”
Murdoch also hit Romney for winning the nomination “by destroying every other Republican with his own money” and for failing to deflect criticism that he was “super rich.”
Economic mobility is the cause celebre in both parties these days. (Democrats, like Elizabeth Warren, prefer to use the rhetoric of income inequality.) Sens. Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul have all focused on tackling poverty in recent years. The name of Jeb Bush’s PAC, “The Right to Rise,” suggests it’s going be the central focus of his presidential campaign. Even the hard-line-conservative Heritage Action for America is talking about solutions to help struggling middle-class voters.
Romney is expressing a renewed interest in the subject, but he didn’t demonstrate it enough in the last presidential campaign. His “47 percent” comment at a fundraiser, separating the American electorate into makers and takers, has been condemned by Republicans of all ideological stripes since the election. When Paul Ryan wanted to spend more time on the campaign trail highlighting poverty, Romney’s campaign resisted.
One of the biggest reasons Romney lost is because Americans didn’t view him as relatable—and much of that problem was fundamental to his biography. Democrats had a wealth of material to use in portraying his successful business background as something far more sinister. That won’t change if he runs again, even if he campaigns on a different message.
In the immediate aftermath of his loss, he was the feckless, wooden candidate who blew a prime opportunity to snatch the White House from an unpopular Democratic incumbent. Next came the “maybe he wasn’t so bad, after all” phase, when Romney seemed vindicated by President Barack Obama’s recurring second-term missteps. That lasted through most of 2014.
Now it’s reality-check time. The faded memories of Romney’s 2012 shortcomings are snapping back into focus as he drifts, with apparent seriousness, toward yet another run for the White House. The harshly negative reaction presents an early test of Romney’s resolve, against what’s certain to be a more formidable field than he encountered last time…
“The problem is that ‘Romney for president’ is now an art-house film thinking it’s a blockbuster franchise and that there’s a huge market for another sequel,” [Jonah] Goldberg wrote. “There’s not.”
Even some of Romney’s supporters who again may work on his campaign say privately that they already see some warning signs in his early rollout over the past week.
His advisers have been outlining a pathway for him to again win the nomination, but Romney himself has not fully articulated his rationale for jumping into the race after two years of saying he wouldn’t.
They worry that, without a clearly articulated reason for running, he will come across as merely an ambitious man who wants to be president without knowing why.
Throughout his political career, the former Massachusetts governor has surrounded himself with essentially the same core team of advisers. And now, even as donors and other supporters push Romney to shake up his organization and bring in fresh blood for a possible third presidential bid, Romney is still relying on the same team for advice, strategic counsel, and early moves to form a 2016 campaign staff…
“Contrary to the image created by the Obama campaign, he does not like to fire people,” the donor said. “He’s very loyal. So changing his team will require him to do something that’s not in his comfort zone.”
Memory gets hazy, but I could have sworn that Republicans in the last election had nominated a microtargeting algorithm. When Paul Ryan brings warmth and levity to your campaign, you know there’s a problem…
Suppose, for instance, all 20 Republican candidates show up for a debate in Des Moines. And then you go out to your car for a minute, because you left your briefing book or maybe you forgot that the dog is strapped to the roof, and at that very moment, say, a North Korean missile streaks out of the sky and vaporizes the entire field, along with the party’s most ardent activists and most of the national media.
That’s not your only clear path to the nomination, of course. But for strategic purposes, it’s the one I’d focus on right now…
[T]he real problem in 2012 was that you seemed to be borrowing the party rather than steering it, running to have the job you’ve always coveted rather than to do anything specific with it.
This is a moment in history that demands superior political gifts from one who would govern. Mitt Romney does not have them. He never did. He’s good at life and good at business and good at faith. He is politically clunky, always was and always will be. His clunkiness is seen in the way he leaked his interest in running: to mega-millionaires and billionaires in New York. “Tell your friends.”…
The real Romney-Reagan difference is this: There was something known as Reaganism. It was a real movement within the party and then the nation. Reaganism had meaning. You knew what you were voting for. It was a philosophy that people understood. Philosophies are powerful. They carry you, and if they are right and pertinent to the moment they make you inevitable.
There is no such thing as Romneyism and there never will be. Mr. Romney has never encompassed a philosophical world. He has never become the symbol of an attitude toward government, or an approach to freedom or fairness. “Romneyism” is just “Mitt should be president.” That is not enough.
Most embarrassing, key players in Romney’s past campaigns and donors are not joining him, many signing on with Jeb Bush. Some are openly disparaging, as if they hope to save Romney from himself. Pollster and analyst Charlie Cook writes that “it takes considerable effort not to see Romney’s words as anything but a pathetic attempt to stay relevant, a reaction to being all but ignored as those few in the Republican establishment who aren’t enthusiastic for Bush instead push for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. The fact is that if the 2012 GOP field were stronger, Romney probably wouldn’t have been the nominee. The center-right/establishment half of the Republican NCAA-like bracket gets pretty much filled by Bush and, even more so, by Christie, if in fact there is room for two.”
Part of the reason for the disastrous reaction is that the announcement was haphazard and lacked a rationale for his run. This in and of itself confirmed the criticism that Romney, for all his business prowess, could never direct a lean and effective political team and is personally tone deaf.
Many party insiders with whom I spoke over the past few days say the spectacle is “sad” or “embarrassing” to watch. Plainly they are pained to see Romney stumble so badly before he even gets out of the gate. The affection for him is real, but Romney fails to appreciate that Republicans can feel warmly toward him and yet intensely dislike the idea of a third run. It is hard to tell which would be worse — an about-face from Romney in recognition that there is simply not the support there — or a hobbled campaign and reduction in Romney’s stature. The people who put him in this place by convincing him there would be a groundswell of support have done him a horrible disservice, whether motivated by personal gain (another two years of running up the bills) or by poor judgment or by fear of telling their friend the truth. Shame on them.
That said, there’s one major Republican constituency that’s tickled pink about Romney 2016: grassroots conservatives who hope he’ll siphon fundraising dollars away from fellow Establishment-friendly contenders like Jeb Bush and Chris Christie.
Steve Deace, an influential Iowa conservative radio host, said he’s overjoyed about Romney’s plans. He said he expects Romney and Bush to tear into each other. And given their tetchy personal history, which the Washington Post detailed here, it could theoretically get ugly.
“This is going to be corporatist on corporatist crime,” Deace said. “And whenever corporatist blood gets spilled, we all win.”
“[Romney’s] going to provide a lot of free opposition research for conservatives out there,” Deace added. “It’s the best of both worlds. He will go nowhere.”
Clinton confidants and other Democrats said in interviews that they view Romney as the weaker Republican opponent in a general election, unlikely to get a second chance from the key swing group of independents who made up their minds about him just two years ago.
“I would like to run against Mitt Romney in every election forever,” said former Obama staffer Tommy Vietor, who also worked on Clinton’s book tour last summer…
“We’d be much more concerned about Bush,” said one Clinton confidant. “When you have Romney against Clinton, you can’t really make the argument that it’s time to move on. You’ve got two people who have run before.”…
“I hope he is the nominee,” said the longtime Clinton confidant. “We will cream him.”