Can Mitt Romney Run Again?

Mitt Romney looking at his portrait.

There’s some chatter about Mitt Romney for President again. He ‘s a man who wanted to be President, and he has had a terrific year. The Netflix documentary, various media appearances and the flap about statements regarding his black grandson have humanized him. The mess in Russia makes his hawkishness look prescient, and polls show that he’d win in a landslide against Obama if the election were held today. Investigations have hobbled prominent Governors planning to run for the office. And candidates for statewide office are eager to campaign with Romney, and to emphasize his endorsement.

Elite donors still like him. The biggest surprise may have been the encouragement from a Democrat, former Montana governor Brian Schweit­zer, who told reporters, “He would be a giant in a field of midgets.” It is a bit unusual for a potential Democratic candidate to attend a conference for a prominent Republican, and compliment him. Before Republicans consider the electoral strengths of a Romney/ Schweitzer unity ticket, it is worth noting other motives for Schweitzer’s actions. Since Romney seems unlikely to run, he could have just been laying the seeds for criticism of the Republican field. Republicans might say nice things about Joe Biden for the same reason. But it was an unusual quote.

While Romney made some obvious mistakes in 2012, it’s not clear that he was a bad candidate. He overperformed most Republican candidates for statewide office, and lost narrowly in the popular vote (the difference between him and Obama was less than 1/25th of the vote) in a political environment that favored Obama. The economy was improving, Obama’s response to Hurricane Sandy was well-received, Osama Bin Laden was still dead and Americans have a tendency to support incumbents. The nominee in 2016 will run under historically more favorable circumstances, and Romney would have less of a learning curve than anyone else.

There are some significant negatives. He’s not exactly a fresh face, and a few months older than Hillary Clinton, so he wouldn’t be able to beat her the way Obama did in ’08. All of his political campaigns have meant that there are a lot of public statements to scrutinize and attack.

If Romney still wants to be president, this would be his last shot. It wouldn’t make sense for Romney to wait until 2020. It’s a few months before the 2016 primary is officially underway, and Romney’s considered such a strong contender because of a series of lucky breaks unlikely to repeat in a different environment. The field is fractured. Establishment frontrunners include a guy under investigation, and George W Bush’s little brother. He would have the advantage of name recognition, in addition to dedicated support in the business community and among Mormons. Plus, he would have an existing campaign infrastructure.

If the election were held today, Romney would beat Obama.

There are arguments that the political environment typically doesn’t favor General Election losers, although that is mainly due to the small sample set. The reasons that Gerald Ford, Walter Mondale and Bob Dole didn’t run for president again don’t apply to Mitt Romney. Looking at losers of presidential elections; Papa Bush, Ford and Carter were incumbent Presidents who lost. Dole and McCain were in their early 70s when nominated. Mondale, Mcgovern and Dukakis suffered more embarrassing losses.

That leaves Humphrey, Kerry and Gore. Gore didn’t want to run in 2004, even though he polled rather well. Humphrey came relatively close in 1972, losing to a candidate who ran a savvy campaign and had stronger appeal to the base.

Kerry’s biggest problem was the 2008 primary field. For a party that values diversity, he would have been the third choice, at best, in a group that included a young African American Senator and a female Senator with 100% name recognition and a popular husband. 2008 ended up being a long hard-fought primary, although that was between figures Democrats generally liked with similar policy positions. The 2016 Republican primary is likely to be more divided, which leaves more openings.

Kerry was also blamed for losing to George W Bush. Republicans hate Obama as much as Democrats hated Bush eight years ago, and there will be a section of the party that blames Romney for Obama’s reelection. However, Republicans do seem to have more respect for Obama’s political talent than Democrats had for Bush.

Romney might hope for similarities to Ronald Reagan, a former coastal Governor who won the presidency in his third go-around at age 69, fourteen years after first being elected to statewide office.

During the 2012 campaign, there were some comparisons between Romney and Dewey, a Northeastern Governor who ran a safe campaign against a troubled incumbent President and lost. His record of three presidential campaigns does not set an impressive precedent for Romney. Dewey ran for the Republican nomination in 1936, and lost. He then ran for the nomination in 1940 as a northeastern Governor, and won the nomination but lost the general. He sought the nomination again in 1944, and once again lost the general.

A third scenario is Al Smith, a northeastern governor who sought the nomination in 1924 and lost. He won the nomination four years later and lost the general. And he sought the nomination again in 1932 and lost in the effort. Romney would rather be Reagan than Dewey or Smith.

About Thomas Mets

I’m a comic book fan, wannabe writer, politics buff and New Yorker. I don’t actually follow baseball. In the Estonian language, “Mets” simply means forest, or lousy sports team. You can email me at
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2 Responses to Can Mitt Romney Run Again?

  1. Boscoe says:

    The problem with Mitt for me is that he is clearly so incredibly disconnected from the reality where most of us live. He’s someone who will arrogantly denigrate the 47% who “don’t pay taxes”, apparently not realizing or caring that these people are mostly students, disabled, elderly, military personnel and the working poor, and that NO ONE is living a life of luxury on a welfare check.

    He’s someone who is so disconnected, that his wife (who admits she’s never worked a day in her life) honestly thought her “touching story” about how she and Mitt “knew hardship” because they “lived in a one room apartment for several months” with only “sales of some of Mitt’s stock portfolio to make ends meet until he got his first management job” would resonate with… anyone.

    My favorite Mitt moment was when he suggested that kids shouldn’t rely on government for college tuition or to start a business, they should just go to Dad for a loan. That right there should tell you this guy has no idea what reality is like for most of us.

    And then there was the fact that he actually ran with the bogus “You didn’t build that” meme that was the result of creative editing to make it sound like Obama had meant something different than what he was clearly talking about in the unedited clip. Politics is dirty, and there are a lot of cheap shots, but to essentially embrace a core campaign slogan based on an outright falsehood just reeks. McCain’s campaign may have invoked the “pallin’ around with terrorists” meme in Palin’s stump speeches, but he didn’t put “McCain: NOT palling around with terrorists” on his rally banners, know what I’m sayin’?

    And I’m not one who believes that the wealthy are automatically superior beings who innately know how to fix the economy because wealthy. I drive way too fast and have never crashed into anything or gotten a ticket, but that doesn’t make me qualified to tune Formula-1 engines. And anyway, the number of businesses that succeeded under Bain management is low compared with how many failed.

    And the Netflix doc did nothing to change my opinion of him. He frankly seems soulless, hollow and robotic to me. He is someone who seems almost disfunctionally uncomfortable outside his protected bubble, and not all that comfortable INSIDE it. Remember that the documentary crew followed him for SIX MONTHS to gather that hour’s worth of footage that was supposed to humanize him, and that was the best they could come up with? Not impressed with Romney.

    He certainly LOOKS the part, and he DOES seem earnest, but that’s not enough to get me to pull the lever for him, and the choice of Paul Ryan ensured that would never happen.

  2. Even if he did, he would not be likely to win. He destroyed his possibility of being president because of his comment that 47% of the population would have stood with Barack Obama no matter what. Mathematically, you cannot insult half the population and expect them to vote for you. He also admitted that his healthcare plan was the basis for Barack Obama’s healthcare plan, which he initially denied. Classic flip flops.

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