Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

The Terrible Idea of Romney 2016

An appallingly bad idea for all involved
romney no

Byron York reports some terrible news:

Romney has seemed to discourage such talk in media appearances, and there has been a general belief that after losing as the party’s nominee, the 67 year-old Romney would return to private life for good.

That belief is wrong. Romney is talking with advisers, consulting with his family, keeping a close eye on the emerging ’16 Republican field, and carefully weighing the pluses and minuses of another run. That doesn’t mean he will decide to do it, but it does mean that Mitt 2016 is a real possibility.

This is an appallingly bad idea for all involved. Let’s start with the Republican Party. Romney was and continues to be deeply distrusted by his party, and they in turn have been bitterly disappointed by their experience with him as their nominee. An attempt to foist him on Republican voters once again would go over badly, not least because his main selling point last time was electability and he lost the general election. He frankly has nothing else to recommend him to most Republican voters, and that will be even more painfully obvious the next time around. His loyalists like to imagine that he is another Nixon, who will come back from an election defeat to become president, but this gives him far too much credit. Romney has done none of the political work to earn another chance at the nomination, and he lost the 2012 election by a much wider margin than Nixon lost in 1960. At least Nixon had been elected on Eisenhower’s ticket twice, while Romney has been entirely unsuccessful in seeking any office at the federal level. Romney has been a serial failure in politics with the one exception of the 2002 gubernatorial election, and he has spent the last decade going out of his way to repudiate everything he claimed to stand for back then.

Most “very conservative” voters would still want nothing to do with him, and most other Republican voters would see no reason to back a failed candidate for another run at the White House. If it was Romney’s “turn” in 2012, he has had it and squandered it, and there won’t be many interested in giving him another one. Indeed, almost every faction of conservatives would be unhappy with another Romney campaign. For reformist conservatives, Romney’s last campaign was the embodiment of the party’s complete failure to adapt to the present. Romney’s agenda was the antithesis of almost everything libertarians and small-government conservatives support. Republicans that are concerned primarily with winning elections can’t be pleased by the idea of a Romney return, since he represented everything most non-Republicans loathe about the party between his corporate business background, his condescending attitude towards working-class and poor Americans, and his outdated economic agenda. He topped that off with a foreign policy worldview that was by turns ignorant and frightening. His supporters have desperately been trying to rehabilitate Romney’s foreign policy over the last two years without success, but nothing would be worse for the GOP’s foreign policy than to accept the false notion that “Romney was right” about anything in 2012.

Finally, it doesn’t make any sense for Romney to do this. He is a terrible politician and he isn’t well-suited for what presidential campaigning requires. There must be things that he would rather spend him time and energy on than mounting a third failed bid, and he has no good reason to undergo the scrutiny and mockery that he would inevitably face if he ran again. As it is, he can leave politics as a presidential also-ran, but he doesn’t have to be someone that utterly humiliated himself by not knowing when to quit. Romney can do himself and all of us a favor and stay out of the 2016 race.