A Wall Street Journal editorial lambasted the former Massachusetts governor’s decision:
“If Mitt Romney is the answer, what is the question? We can think of a few worthy possibilities, though one that doesn’t come immediately to mind is who would be the best Republican presidential nominee in 2016.”
Rupert Murdoch, whose Newscorp owns the Journal said Romney is “a terrible candidate.” Erick Erickson of RedState called a third Romney run “stupid.” Meanwhile, Jonah Goldberg was similarly dismayed in a piece for The National Review. And Jennifer Rubin asserted that Romney 2016 is “preposterous.”
If it seems like Romney has been running for president for a long time, it’s because in a way he has, trying to achieve what his father could not in 1968. His first foray into politics as a candidate was in 1994, when, to borrow a line from Lincoln, he was ignominiously trounced at the hustings by Sen. Ted Kennedy in the race for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts. But Romney was on the state’s radar, and after heading the organizing committee for 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, he was back, this time running for and winning the governorship. Upon serving one term, he declined to run again and set his sights on the White House. After getting walloped by John McCain in the 2008 Republican primaries, Romney emerged in 2012 from the GOP’s theater of the absurd and went on to lose to President Obama by four points.
Which brings us to today, when a poll of Iowa Republicans shows Romney with a lead in that first-in-the-nation caucus state. And a poll conducted last summer by CNN shows Americans had serious buyers’ remorse, as Romney topped Obama 53% to 44% in a 2012 election redo. Clearly, there are plenty of Americans out there who could view the results of the 2012 election not as a knock on Romney, but as an indictment of the electorate, themselves included.
Unfortunately for the GOP, they don’t have a Romney problem; they have a Republican problem — at least at the national level. The Republican Party has lost the last popular vote in five out the last six presidential elections, in which they’ve run a wide variety of candidates. Those popular vote losers have been: an incumbent war hero president (G.H.W. Bush, 1992), a war hero Senator (Bob Dole, 1996), an affable “family values” evangelical governor (G.W. Bush, 2000), another war hero Senator (John McCain, 2008), and a technocratic former governor with tons of business experience (Romney, 2012). The only election in which the GOP did win the popular was when it dialed the terrorism fear-mongering index up to 11, and even then still only managed to win by an Ohio.
These election results were not outcomes of a dice roll. They were the completely natural results that happen when you have a party that whose erstwhile go-to voting bloc has been white social conservatives, which is bad news for the GOP considering that every census since 1940 shows a decline in the white demographic. And as much as the GOP would like to tout the 2014 midterms as evidence of a Republican resurgence, it’s part of a broader cross-party historical pattern, and also the GOP’s inherent advantage in the midterms, which “have always drawn older voters, and usually drawn white voters, to the polls in disproportionate numbers,” according to Dave Wasserman.
Looking at the GOP field in 2016, none of the potential candidates other than Romney stand out as a viable general election option. Former Gov. Jeb Bush (Fla.) may be the closest thing to it, but voters may very well find themselves channeling Juliet Capulet to ask, “What’s in a name?” before concluding, “Maybe a whole hell of a lot.”
Speaking of sins of the father, should Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), his insane and bigoted dad would, or at least should, be a problem for him, not to mention he’s been rubbing his GOP colleagues in the Senate the wrong way ever since he arrived. He’d get little establishment support, which would pose a huge fundraising problem for him.
Former Gov. Rick Perry (Texas), despite his new frames, is still an unelectable moron.
Former Gov. Mike Huckabee (Ark.) and former Sen. Rick Santorum (Penn.) would split the Old Testament vote.
Gov. Chris Christie (N.J.) would be too overweight for some voters. And if he’s not too overweight for them, he’ll be too abrasive and Northeastern for others.
Ben Carson. Please.
Sen. Rand Paul’s (Ky.) shoddy record on foreign policy will turn him into a veritable pin cushion during the debates.
Union-busting Gov. Scott Walker (Wisc.) might be Romney’s toughest opponent. Walker was elected in a state whose electoral votes haven’t gone to a Republican since 1984, and he also fought off a fierce recall attempt.
A return from the electoral dead is hardly unprecedented. Ronald Reagan won the presidency in 1980 after losing to Gerald Ford in the Republican primaries in 1976. Richard Nixon, whose resignation vaulted Ford to the presidency, won the White House in 1968 after a narrow defeat to John F. Kennedy in 1960. Nixon even went on to lose the 1962 gubernatorial election in California, after which he declared, “You don’t have Nixon to kick around any more, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference.” And without getting too obscure, President Grover Cleveland lost his 1888 reelection bid to Benjamin Harrison, only to come back in 1892 to defeat him.
Conservatives and others can trash Romney’s third presidential bid as a desperate and pathetic attempt to win that which has already been lost, but they would do well to remember that Romney is simply the outgrowth of what the party has been sowing at the national level.