The Rise of Romney, Part III?
In recent weeks, Mitt Romney has been experiencing an interesting insurgence. Emil Henry made The Case for Mitt Romney in 2016, followed by former Romney foreign policy advisor Alex Wong arguing that Romney was right.
It’s not just the media or politicians talking to the media. Romney is in demand for Republican congressional candidates at rallies, and perhaps more notably, Romney beats Obama handily in an “if the election were held today…” question.
Buyer’s remorse is one thing, but I simply cannot remember John Kerry ever getting this kind of love in 2006. The two actually have quite a bit in common. They lost the popular vote handily but not overwhelmingly. Neither was beloved by the party that nominated them. Both lost against incumbents who had either a limited or no second honeymoon. Both had personalities that did not go over well with the electorate. And yet while Kerry may have won such a hypothetical poll in 2006 and probably did, I don’t remember any of this for him and in fact he was talking about running again in 2008 and was pretty much shot down on the idea.
So what’s going on?
I think some of it is a recognition among non-partisans that Romney may have gotten a raw deal. Remember when he ridiculously asserted that Russia was a geopolitical rival? Haha, old-timer! And binders of women? Haha, there was something wrong with that because it sounds funny. He never actually said he likes firing people, we can all pretend that he did.
I can actually sympathize with some of this, insofar as my own view of him is considerably less negative now than it was on election day. The thing about Romney, though, is that he was always better at a distance. The girl in the clown suit.
More to the point, the reasons he lost to a president of at most midling popularity in 2012 haven’t gone away. It can’t even be said that the party that was dragging him down (and it was the party dragging him down rather than vice-versa) has changed, or that he would have more capacity to change it in or by 2016 than he did in 2012.
And, of course, he won’t be running against an unpopular Barack Obama. He’d likely be running against Hillary Clinton, who crushes him just as handily as he did Obama on the very next question of the same poll.
Now, I happen to think that Clinton herself is not as invulnerable now as the polls suggest. I suspect that she will more likely than not be our next president, but like Mitt, Hillary looks better at a distance and she lost a nomination that should have been hers for a reason. If there is a Republican to take her down, I simply can’t imagine it’s the guy with a similar baggage portfolio. About the best that can be said of Romney is that he would be better positioned to defeat HRC than Jeb Bush.
Which brings us to the real reason behind the seeming Romney renaissance. The GOP has nobody else. By the time Kerry came along, many of the Democrats were already looking at Hillary Clinton or dreaming about Al Gore or Barack Obama. Not only did they have a list of winnable candidates, but the Republicans lack their own HRC2016. With Chris Christie torn asunder, Paul Ryan not looking to run, and the other candidates being completely and entirely unacceptable to major fragments of the party, one of the two the tallest men on the field is the guy who was too short to win a winnable election (and the other the brother of the guy who got the party in the position that it’s in).
All of which to say is that the principle lesson to all of this is that the GOP has some serious work to do.