The political world is all aflutter with the news that Mitt Romney is apparently planning to make a third run for the White House.
Why would anything be different this time around?
In 2012 Romney was a terrible candidate. Remember the 47% remark? How about “self deportation”?
You know how when you have a heated argument and think of the perfect thing to say three hours later? Romney 2016 would be the political equivalent.
There have been numerous polls showing Americans have a sort of “buyers remorse” about President Obama. A CNN poll from July showed Romney would beat Obama if the election were held today. That’s a stupid argument. It’s like saying Virginia Tech should be the national champion in college football because they beat Ohio State in September.
Republicans thrashed Democrats in the 2014 midterms, so there’s a natural inclination to think that would carry over to the 2016 presidential election. That’s not true. The electorate in presidential years is bigger, younger and more Democratic than midterm elections.
There’s a real danger that Republicans will misread the 2014 election and think it makes their path to the White House in 2016 easier. Not so.
The “blue wall” awaits. That’s 18 states and the District of Columbia that have voted for the Democratic presidential nominee for the last six elections. These states are responsible for 242 electoral votes. That means Democrats have a massive built-in advantage. All they need is 28 more electoral votes to win the election.
Will Romney bring anything to the table in 2016 that he didn’t have in 2012? Probably not. Why should we believe he would be able to do better than the 206 electoral votes he garnered in 2012?
In political campaigns, candidates must define themselves before their opponents define them. Romney has already been defined by his last two runs at the White House. He can’t count on millions of voters having mass-scale amnesia next time around. All of the issues that hurt Romney last time are still there.
I get why it would be appealing for Romney to run again in 2016. He won’t have to navigate the same cast of crazies he had to deal with last time around. No Michelle Bachmann. No Ron Paul. No Herman Cain. No Newt Gingrich. In 2012 Romney had to run to the right to fit in with this crew. Without these political maniacs in the fray, Romney probably feels like he can finally be himself - a conservative plutocrat. It’s much more appealing to run against the likes of Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul and Bobby Jindal. Romney can go toe-to-toe with, and even best, these guys. Sure there’s probably going to be Rick Perry and Donald Trump in the field, but the bulk of the field will be saner than it was in 2012.
Jeb Bush is the wild card here. Time Magazine noted Romney and Bush are not fans of each other and this is likely an attempt by Romney to keep some control over the nominating process. If Bush gains the momentum and the party “clears the deck” for him, Romney becomes irrelevant. Romney could be a kingmaker for the GOP in this race by bestowing his blessing on a candidate. If Bush catches fire, who needs him?
Romney’s supporters like to point out Ronald Reagan lost before he won the White House. Actually, that’s not a clean analogy. Reagan lost the GOP nomination in 1976 before he won in 1980. Romney is certainly not Reagan.
The last presidenial candidate to lose a general election then later win was Richard Nixon (lost in 1960, won in 1968). With all of the issues dogging Romney right now, I’m not sure he can pull a Nixon in 2016.