I have a $50 bet with a friend of mine who thinks Mitt Romney is going to run for the Republican presidential nomination again. We made that bet a few months ago and he quickly admitted it’s a long shot. But now a case is being made by a former Bush administration official that Romney should run again.
Will Romney be different from these other failed nominees? Could he defy the odds and make a comeback presidential bid capturing the GOP nomination after all the doubt, second-guessing and blame that accompany such a loss? According to the latest Quinnipiac poll, many Americans seem to think so—45 percent of voters said the United States would be better off today with Romney as president.
That was also the question on not just the minds but the lips of many at a recent private gathering in Utah known as the E2 Summit, Romney’s now-annual retreat for high-profile politicians, policymakers, innovators, entrepreneurs, business leaders, top bundlers and, of course, a core group of long-time Romney loyalists. (Disclosure: I served in multiple roles in the 2012 campaign, including adviser to the economic team, television surrogate and fundraiser.) Although the subject was not on any agenda or the topic of any speech or breakout session, virtually every meal, cocktail hour and coffee break included quiet ruminations over whether Romney could successfully run again…
When Republicans don’t hold the presidency, they tend to nominate “the guy who last ran” (think Nixon ’68, Reagan ’80, Dole ’96, McCain ’08 and Romney ’12) and reject newcomers not yet tested at the presidential level. If this formula were to repeat, then the mantle would likely pass to Romney’s 2012 running mate Paul Ryan, but he isn’t showing any leg for a presidential run. Newcomers like Jeb Bush and Rand Paul—or for that matter Marco Rubio, Rob Portman and Bobby Jindal—would have to overcome this historical pattern.
Should an opening emerge, Romney, like Nixon, will have a massive legacy infrastructure at his disposal to seize the opportunity. Impressively, Romney is the only Republican who can roll into any major money center like New York, Los Angeles or Houston and mobilize his fundraisers on demand, and he is doing so with regularity.
The one thing entirely missing from this analysis is whether he could actually win the White House. There’s also no mention of the furious backlash from the conservative base that would occur if Romney were the nominee again. Could he make a run? Sure. But I suspect the result would be very bad for the GOP. Romney is a terrible campaigner. He comes across as completely inauthentic, a political Ken doll without a soul. And he comes across that way because that’s what he actually is.