As a candidate, Kerry shared a lot in common with Romney. They are both enormously wealthy. They both made their political careers in Massachusetts. They both at times were painfully awkward campaigners. They were both tagged as flip-floppers. And they both won the first general election presidential debate, setting hearts afire in their respective camps only to come up short in the end.
Yet Kerry was never seriously considered as a potential candidate in 2008.
It could be that the Republican field in 2016 is weak. Perhaps “Romney” was the only name that rang balls in the heads of Iowa voters. But there are several marquee names on the GOP side who have received a lot of exposure on Fox News and other national media outlets. Rand Paul is a senator and a son of a former presidential candidate. Jeb Bush has the most famous surname in Republican politics. Paul Ryan was Romney’s running mate. Rick Perry ran for president in 2012, and is the governor of Texas. Marco Rubio was the Barack Obama of the GOP before he turned into a falling star. Chris Christie is, well, Chris Christie. And none came even close to Romney.
Perhaps Romney’s main selling point over his peers is that he has already survived a GOP primary process. Everyone else on that list is guilty of certain conservative heresies — mostly around the issue of immigration — which makes the GOP’s notoriously purist primary voters hesitant to give their support to anyone who hasn’t been stamped with a seal of approval. Contra Quigley, there’s no evidence here that the base has become more moderate — in fact, it is just as likely that the base has grown even warier of the politicians who claim to represent it.