Why Mitt Romney 3.0 will fail in 2016
After a series of definitive, continuous statements that he would never, ever run for president again, Mitt Romney is now testing the waters for 2016. The former Massachusetts governor seems to think that the third time must be the charm.
Let’s review: Romney ran for the GOP nomination in 2008 but lost to Sen. John McCain (R, Ariz.). Romney won the nomination in 2012 against a lackluster field and lost to incumbent President Barack Obama, ironically receiving about 47 percent of the vote.
The figure of “47 percent,” of course, is significant, because that was the percentage of Americans that Romney was infamously caught on tape claiming were freeloading off the government. According to Romney, those are the 47 percent “who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them,” he told a room full of wealthy donors.
But now he says that in the 2016 go-round, he’s going to focus on poverty. Go figure. Remember, he also was quoted during the 2012 campaign as saying, “I’m not concerned about the very poor.” One wonders which of his multiple homes he was at when he dreamed up the “poverty” theme.
In an article in New York magazine, commentator Jonathan Chait says he refuses to believe that Romney is really running again — or that he has a real chance.
“Why would Republicans, who grudgingly submitted to a Romney nomination in 2012 only after every other possibility had exhausted itself, give him another try when so many alternatives are available?” Chait asked. Chait also claimed that many of Romney’s opponents in the 2012 race for the GOP nomination, such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, were really running for a position as a talk-show host.
A Wall Street Journal editorial wasn’t kind to Romney: Exactly how Romney would be a better candidate “was not obvious,” it stated. A story in Politico quoted skepticism from a slew of Republican politicians and pundits, from former half-term Alaska Gov. $arah Palin to an opinion piece by conservative writer Jonah Goldberg: “The problem is that ‘Romney for president’ is now an art-house film thinking it’s a blockbuster franchise and that there’s a huge market for another sequel. There’s not.”
Romney advisers like to cite a July 2014 CNN poll showing that, in a “do-over” election, Romney would beat Obama 53 percent to 44 percent. Of course, that was only one poll, in the middle of a particularly bad news cycle for Obama, with issues such as Ukraine, a surge of child immigrants, the upswing of the Islamic State, etc. And remember how ungodly awful CNN’s polling was in 2012? They had Romney in front then, too, in many polls leading up to the election, and they never bothered to count votes in the Electoral College. How’d that election turn out?
Yet Romney is talking to potential donors, telling them that he wants to be president and that he “almost certainly will” run for president again. But he’ll face opponents who already can smell blood in the water and who are fighting for the same donor dollars.
This time around, there are a plethora of GOP office holders who are itching to declare their candidacies. The only almost-declared candidate so far is former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has formed a fundraising committee and already has lined up some big name donors — some of the same pools of money Romney is chasing. Then there’s New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is apparently on the verge of forming a leadership PAC to start fundraising. Other governors waiting in the wings are Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who thinks voters will forgive and forget his “oops” moment during a 2011 GOP debate. It probably didn’t bode well for Perry that in one recent interview, he said there wasn’t “an IQ test” for running for president.
From the Senate, there are Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul — two lawmakers famous for being flamethrowers. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida is still flirting with the idea of a presidential run, but he probably took himself out of serious contention when he let his thirst overpower his political ambition during his time in the national spotlight when he gave the Republican response to Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address. And since Rubio backed the doomed immigration reform plan in the Senate, he’s lost credibility with the far right.
Rand Paul is making sure everybody knows that he thinks Mitt Romney is “yesterday’s news,” as he said in a recent interview on Fox radio. And he was quick to downplay Romney’s chances in the New Hampshire Journal: “It’s sort of what Einstein said, that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result.”
Past Romney staffers and supporters are now making claims that are just, well, ludicrous. In the 2014 election, former Sen. Scott Brown, who jumped the border from Massachusetts into New Hampshire to run for Senate in that state (and lose), claimed that if Romney had won the 2012 election, the country wouldn’t be facing any Ebola problems. Huh? The virus would magically disappear? Now Romney advisers are saying that, had Romney won, “There wouldn’t be an ISIS at all, and Putin would know his place in life. Domestically, things would be in better shape,” according to a report in the Boston Globe. Seriously? As if the war in Iraq that created ISIS never existed?
Let’s return to the real world. Romney based his 2012 campaign on claiming that he would save the U.S. economy (note: It already had been saved by the 2009 economic stimulus package). Romney claimed he would lower the unemployment rate to under six percent by the end of his first term (note: The current U.S. unemployment rate is 5.6 percent — accomplished in two years after the 2012 election). Romney claimed that he alone could bring down gas prices (note: Gas now averages $2.10 a gallon, down from nearly $4 a gallon in 2012). Romney claimed that his “25 years in the private sector” — if you count working as a
vulture venture capitalist really working in the private sector — meant that only he, and not Obama, would be in a position to rescue the economy and create new jobs (note: Job growth averaged 246,000 new jobs per month in 2014).
“If you believe in your heart that this country is going to hell in a hand basket and is worse than ever, you owe it to your country to think about this,” one longtime Romney adviser said in the Globe story. Funny — people are now expressing more, not less, faith in the nation’s economy. Americans’ confidence in the economy is higher than it has been at almost any time over the past seven years, according to the latest figures from Gallup.
What do voters think? It’s way too early to tell, of course, but as Chait said: “The post-election savaging of Romney was widespread and totalistic, ranging from his inept polling and campaign mechanics to his political philosophy. … There is no evidence that Romney has learned to suppress the traits that made him a figure of ridicule in 2012.” Romney advisers crow that he leads the pack in the currently meaningless GOP presidential opinion polls. That’s called name recognition, you dim bulbs.
Stronger GOP opponents. A stronger U.S. economy. Memories of missteps, misstatements, and failed messaging. Need we go on? There’s just no reason to take the possibility of a Romney candidacy seriously, even if he is hiring staff for a run (hey, maybe he’ll spend his own money this time). If wealthy GOP donors can’t decide where to funnel their campaign dollars, why would they bet on a two-time loser?