Michael Brendan Dougherty does his best to argue that another Romney campaign is not such a terrible idea. He makes some fair points, but this is his least persuasive claim:
A Romney 2016 campaign will be even further removed from the late Bush years, which were a disaster and an electoral albatross for the GOP. The further Republicans get away from the heart palpitations of the Dow’s collapse, the better they will do.
The GOP could be weighed down less by its Bush-era failures as time goes by, but for that to happen party leaders would have to distance themselves from the things that made the Bush era such a disaster for the party. Except for Jeb Bush, there is no other possible 2016 candidate less likely to do this than Romney. One reason for this is the trait that Dougherty mentions later in his column, which is Romney’s habit of telling “those in the room what they demand to hear.” Romney wouldn’t know how to distance himself from the flaws of the Bush-era GOP, and he wouldn’t want to try. He has spent more than eight years crafting himself as the embodiment of Republican views that were defined to a large extent by Bush administration policies.
By 2016, Bush will have been out of office for eight years, and yet the GOP still hasn’t faced up to what went wrong during his presidency. Arguably they couldn’t credibly do this in 2008 while Bush was still in office, and in 2012 they still didn’t understand that they needed to do this. However, before they are likely to be trusted with the presidency again, their nominee has to be able to separate himself from Bush’s failures by repudiating at least some of the administration’s worst decisions. Any Republican nominee in 2016 is going to be burdened to some degree by the failures of the last Republican president. The more closely identified with Bush’s views the nominee is, the easier it will be for the other party to portray him as a throwback to the 2000s. In Romney’s case, it will be even easier, since he really is a throwback to the 2000s and is indistinguishable from Bush on almost all issues.
This problem isn’t unique to Romney. It is something that all of the 2016 candidates need to wrestle with in one way or another. The worst possible nominee would be one that doesn’t even see the need to try doing this.