After watching Mitt Romney’s speech on the state of the 2016 Presidential race, I’m still trying to figure out just who the targeted audience was. The speech isn’t going to change the opinion of any Donald Trump supporter, and I’m really not sure it will change the opinion of any dyed-in-the-wool Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, or John Kasich supporters. It’s completely possible Romney is hoping to get the more poll-watching voters to pick whichever candidate is in second, but there’s no guarantee that will work (although it’s sure got AP and CNN speculating).
There’s no doubt Romney sees himself as an elder statesman of the party, but that doesn’t mean anything when the party is in total revolt. Romney is kind of like the 16-year-old standing in the middle of a room full of rowdy kids, telling them to “Stop!” even though they won’t listen. Cruz supporters and Rubio supporters are so dug in, they’re not going to go anywhere regardless of what polls say. See Examples A and B below for further proof:
Florida is winner-take-all. Third place nets Cruz nothing. Cruz voters need to vote for Rubio in Florida to stop Trump. #NeverTrump
— RBe (@RBPundit) March 2, 2016
Romney’s speech may has well been DOA because he’s one of the reasons why Trump is “a thing” anyway. Nick Gillespie noted at Reason all the reasons why the GOP is to blame for Trump’s rise.
Leave aside massive increases in defense spending for the moment…the Republicans pushed No Child Left Behind, the single-biggest expansion of the federal government into education in decades, and the creation of a budget-busting prescription-drug entitlement for seniors. They signed off on Sarbanes-Oxley, a dumb regulatory response to the Enron scandal and bursting of the tech bubble, which helped push IPOs to London and foreign capitals. Bush and the GOP signed off on protectionist measures against foreign steel and timber when it suited them while completely bungling federal responses to natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina.
Don’t forget the PATRIOT Act, the bailouts, and the creation of the TSA and Department of Homeland Security, either. The Republican Party has long claimed to believe in free markets and sound fiscal policy, but hasn’t been willing to show any of it except during Calvin Coolidge’s time in office. Even Romney’s plan to expand the military was horrible because he never explained just how he’d pay for the new ships without causing the debt to rise (Cruz and Rubio haven’t explained how they’d increase military spending without off-setting cuts). So the GOP’s rhetoric doesn’t match their actions, which is why this charging of the Bastille by Trump and his ilk is happening. The House (run by “fiscal hawk Paul Ryan”) can’t even decide how it’s going to put together a budget. So Romney’s decision to speak out against Trump won’t work because the GOP in Congress isn’t doing what it should be doing. As much as I’d like to see Utah Senator Mike Lee firmly denounce Trump, that won’t happen because he’ll just be accused of wanting either Cruz or Rubio in the White House.
There’s nothing wrong with an elder party statesman coming out to denounce Trump, and I think the reception would be much better if it was given by someone like Ronald Reagan. But Romney is no Reagan, especially when it comes to personality and policy, let alone winning elections. There’s a reason why Romney failed in 2012: people didn’t trust him and his personality didn’t win anyone over. I’m not sure George W. Bush (who I personally like, but disagree policywise) would be able to sway people because Trump’s already gone scorched earth with him, and Bush tried to get his brother elected to no avail. This type of message could only be delivered by someone who not only had the personality to back it, but the street cred to as well. Romney isn’t that guy, and the fact he admitted it probably won’t sway anyone, shows he more than likely shouldn’t have said anything. It’s possible Romney is hoping the GOP will pick him in a brokered convention (yay chaos!), but just how many voters would honestly be willing to go for him? Romney is a twice failed presidential candidate, who wasn’t able to beat a weak incumbent because he’s seen as some “old, rich white guy,” and party elite. Not only that, but if Romney were able to snatch the GOP nomination away from Trump in convention chaos, Trump is more than likely going to mount an Independent run, and take all his followers with him. This wasn’t necessarily a bad speech, but needed a better deliverer other than Romney. The problem is, there’s no one else out there who could give this speech. Which says something about the current state of the GOP and why Trump is so popular. It will be curious to see if any polls start changing, but it’s doubtful. That’s all on the candidates themselves, not Romney.