Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Submit, Mitt.

Whether we like it or not, the speculation over who will run for President of the United States in 2016 got rolling very shortly after the 2014 midterm elections.

On the Republican side of the ledger, only Jeb Bush has officially formed an "exploratory committee," which is a precursor to actually entering the race. Rick Santorum certainly sounds as though he is making another run after a surprise showing in the 2012 GOP primaries.

If neither of those names do much for ya (they sure as heck don't for me), the latest Republican candidate buzz likely won't fire ya up.

Mitt Romney is moving quickly to reassemble his national political network, calling former aides, donors and other supporters over the weekend and on Monday in a concerted push to signal his seriousness about possibly launching a 2016 presidential campaign.

Romney’s message, as he told one senior Republican, was that he “almost certainly will” make what would be his third bid for the White House. His aggressive outreach came as Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) — Romney’s 2012 vice presidential running mate and the newly installed chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee — announced Monday that he would not seek the presidency in 2016.

Romney’s activity indicates that his declaration of interest Friday to a group of 30 donors in New York was more than the release of a trial balloon. Instead, it was the start of a deliberate effort by the 2012 nominee to carve out space for himself in an emerging 2016 field also likely to include former Florida governor Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

A few months after losing the 2012 presidential election to Barack Obama, Romney expressed how he longed to be in the White House. Apparently that sentiment is still looming nearly two years later. Perhaps Romney was also encouraged by feedback he received from the Netflix documentary film Mitt. The prevailing sentiment was that if people knew that side of Romney, perhaps he would have appealed to a broader electorate. I don't know if I buy that, but events that unfolded (on both the domestic and foreign sides) within a year after the election seemed to vindicate Romney's campaign messages.

With all that said, I don't see how Romney makes the same kind of hay he did in 2012 when he appeared to be within striking distance late. The reason he was even that close was due to the fact that a fair amount of voters who voted for Obama in 2008 were having some serious buyer's remorse in '12. As NRO's Jonah Goldberg reminds us, therein lies the main problem with a Romney candidacy.

Most of those voters voted at least as much against Obama as they did for Romney. And that’s exactly how the Romney campaign wanted it. “Our whole campaign is premised on the idea that this is a referendum on Obama,” Romney strategist Stuart Stevens admitted to the New York Times. Well, Romney nostalgia, too, is largely a referendum on Obama.

But Obama won’t be on the ticket in 2016. And the idea that a one-term Massachusetts governor, who hired Jonathan Gruber to help design his health-care plan, is just what the Republicans need to run against Hillary Clinton is odd, particularly when the GOP has a much more talented, and fresher, field than it did in 2012.

There’s chatter that Romney is just trying to keep Bush from locking up all the big donors and preventing a Bush coronation. If so, I’m sympathetic. But the sympathy ends the day Romney announces. Then, he’s just another contender.

Given his significant wealth, the 67-year old Romney could live out the rest of his days living a very comfortable lifestyle with his loving family. As such, I give him a tremendous amount of credit for being so passionate about his desire to be leader of the free world that he's willing to eschew such comfort. But the idea that he could somehow position himself to the right of, say, a potential Scott Walker candidacy would be a near impossible sell to the GOP electorate.

Sorry Mitt, but the third time would definitely not be the charm.


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