Does Mitt Romney have any compelling reason to mount a third bid for the presidency? Matt Vespa asked that question this morning and came up with few satisfactory answers. He did observe, however, that the early polling suggests that Romney can unite the party and make a good showing in the early states. That pathway to the nomination sounds eerily familiar.
“So, a have so-so showing in the deep red South and tread water until Super Tuesday,” a skeptical Vespa wrote. “Then again, he starts 2016 as he did in 2012: a fragile frontrunner.”
Both Vespa and Allahpundit have entertained the notion that Romney’s campaign is a feint, and that a theory to which I am also drawn. Compared to Romney’s 2007 and 2011 campaign rollouts, this latest feels haphazard, chaotic, rushed; all qualities one would never ascribe to a Romney venture of any kind.
“This doesn’t look like it was well thought out and organized,” a “highly placed GOP operative” agreed in a quote provided to The Washington Post’s Matea Gold. This operative added that Romney’s behavior is “mystifying” the party donors to whom he is appealing.
But Romney is appealing to donors to hold onto their wallets until he gets into the race. What’s more, the former Massachusetts governor is talking to important political figures like party elder Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Granite State Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) about a third run at the White House. If it is a feint, it’s a committed one.
It looks like we have to take Romney 2016 at face value, which is exactly what The Wall Street Journal editorial board did. In an editorial published late Tuesday night, the editorial board compared Romney’s new presidential aspirations to “recycled” trash. The editors litigated Romney’s failed 2012 bid, excoriated him for throwing a winnable race as a result of a series of unforced errors, and observed that the only impetus for his campaign remains Romney’s high opinion of himself as opposed to having a compelling (or any) policy vision.
Mr. Romney is a man of admirable personal character, but his political profile is, well, protean. He made the cardinal mistake of pandering to conservatives rather than offering a vision that would attract them. He claimed to be “severely conservative” and embraced “self-deportation” for illegal immigrants, a political killer. But he refused to break from his RomneyCare record in Massachusetts even though it undermined his criticism of ObamaCare. A third campaign would resurrect all of that political baggage—and videotape.
The businessman also failed on his own self-professed terms as a superior manager. His convention was the worst since George H.W. Bush’s in 1992, focusing more on his biography than a message. This left him open to President Obama ’s barrage against his record at Bain Capital, which Mr. Romney failed to defend because that would have meant playing on Democratic turf, as his strategists liked to put it. The unanswered charges suppressed GOP turnout in key states like Ohio.
Mr. Romney’s campaign team was notable for its mediocrities, led by a strategist whose theory of the race was that voters had already rejected Mr. Obama so the challenger merely needed to seem like a safe alternative. He thus never laid out an economic narrative to counter Mr. Obama’s claim that he had saved the country from a GOP Depression and needed more time for his solutions to work.
And don’t forget the management calamity of Mr. Romney’s voter turnout operation, code-named Orca. Mr. Romney likes to say he reveres “data,” but Mr. Obama’s campaign was years ahead of Mr. Romney’s in using Big Data and social media to boost turnout. The Romney campaign was so clueless on voter mobilization that well into Election Night the candidate still thought he would win. He lost a winnable race 51%-47%, including every closely contested state save North Carolina.
Romney is on the ropes, but The Journal did not end the brutality there. For another several paragraphs, The Journal’s editorial board berated Romney for failing to articulate positions that contrasted sufficiently with those of the president. The editorial noted that if Romney cannot convince even Republicans of his message, he won’t convince a general electorate to vote for him over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton either.
The Journal closed by observing that Romney does not bring anything to the table that the many other prospective candidates vying to lead the GOP. They failed to make any recommendations, but this editorial clearly suggests that Romney should get out of the way and make room for some new blood.