Many candidates in the 2016 Republican field are relying on former Romney foreign policy advisers:
The actual impact of the Hay Initiative at this stage is hard to discern. The group has definitely allowed several candidates to sound plausibly presidential on foreign policy and helped frame some debate inside the party. And in part because of the group, the Republican presidential nominee’s foreign policy in 2016 will likely look a lot like Romney’s did in 2012.
Put another way, the reliance on so many former Romney foreign policy advisers pretty much guarantees that the eventual nominee will repeatedly make a fool of himself during the general election just as Romney did. This is a little surprising on one level, since it is widely acknowledged outside the GOP that foreign policy was one of Romney’s greatest weaknesses and it was the area where he most often blundered. Romney’s arguments on everything from missile defense to New START to NATO to Iran were often stunningly ignorant, and to the extent that he risked articulating alternative policies that differed from what Obama was already doing they were consistently heavy-handed and wrongheaded.
Then again, it was almost unavoidable that the many hawkish 2016 candidates would turn to former Romney advisers. Romney was the most recent nominee, his embarrassing and outdated foreign policy agenda largely reflected what most other hawks in the party believed (and still believe), and it is now almost an article of faith among these same hawks that Romney has somehow been “vindicated” over the last few years. Just as they couldn’t understand why Romney’s attacks were falling flat three years ago, they still don’t grasp that Romney’s “omni-directional belligerence” is still a liability for the party.
Like Romney, the eventual Republican nominee is likely to have no real foreign policy experience, and that is likely to make that nominee rely heavily on what these advisers recommend. Since there has been no serious rethinking inside the party on foreign policy, hardly anyone inside the GOP thinks that they have a weakness that needs to be fixed, and so they blunder ahead with calls for more aggressive and confrontational policies across the board. As Noah Millman put it back in 2012, “Mitt Romney is running on a platform of full-spectrum aggression.” Running on a nearly identical platform over the next year and a half would be foolish, but there is every reason to expect that the eventual nominee will do so.