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Don’t be surprised if Mitt Romney is on the GOP primary ballot

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Caveat emptor: I have not talked with or received an email from former Massachusetts governor and 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney in months, and the last time I asked him if he was thinking about 2016 — on air before a national audience — his answer was a firm “No.”

Since then on every occasion he has been asked that I have seen he responded with some variation of “No.” Including “No, no, no, no, no.”

Could he change his mind? Of course he could. The man who warned of Russian President Vladimir Putin and many other things must feel no satisfaction in having proved a prophet but not the president. His desire to serve and lead must be greater as the troubles deepen all around us. Certainly many of his supporters are urging him to reconsider.

I support his running as a “favorite son” or “favorite native son” or “favorite adopted son” in a half dozen states and have written to that end in the Weekly Standard a few weeks back because I believe a longer, more deliberative process than the one set up to unfold right now would help the GOP’s eventual nominee immensely in the battle against Hillary Clinton, without the unnecessary bleeding of 20+ debates run by and for the Left via the MSM.

I doubt he will either run all out or at half speed, but I don’t doubt that the worst reason not to do so would be the scorn of others.

My pal Fred Barnes laughed off the idea of Romney 3.0 on my show with an allusion to Harold Stassen, who set a standard for futility in nine separate losing bids for the GOP presidential nomination. My radio colleague Laura Ingraham dismissed it chatting with Bill O’Reilly with a reference to William Jennings Bryan. Neither of them, though, considered that both Thomas Dewey and Richard Nixon achieved multiple nominations with the first run being a loss, and that many other close-but-no-cigar campaigners with names like Dole and Taft were never diminished by their repeated, frustrated ambitions. Not even Stassen deserved the disapprobation attached to his name until very late in his life when he ran manifestly-doomed-to-fail joke campaigns.

If you could win, many people believe, you take a swing – including a twice-failed-at-securing-the nomination Ronald Reagan, the greatest president of the post-World War II era.

I first heard Reagan in small hotel ballroom in the summer of 1978, when the air conditioning had failed and the Gipper was working a crowd of perhaps 200. Many people, including me, didn’t think the old guy had a prayer but I wanted to see him in person.

Reagan urged all the men at the dinner – I think it was sponsored by the San Diego Republican Women Federated – to join him in taking off their jackets and trying to stay cool, but he wasn’t going to cut his remarks short because the times required he take his time. What followed was a masterful speech of the sort that won him a second chance, and not just for him, but for the country.

The rules have all changed now, with Twitter and the rise of snark as well as the death of historical memory. But there would certainly be no shame, and quite a lot of honor if, like Taft and Reagan from the right of the GOP, or Nixon and Dewey from the center-right, Romney reached again.

There are no “rules” about such things, no obstacles to a first-term senator seeking the presidency, or a governor under investigation, or one around whom a recall swirled, or one whose father is the most famous serial candidate of all. There. Are. No. Rules.

It is a new new age of politics, and as I wrote last week, every smart would-be nominee would be musing out loud about Romney as a running mate for the first term — and only the first term — as a means of gaining the Romney network and, if actually implemented, of freezing all critics and would-be 2020 vice-presidential nominees in place in support of the president from 2017 to the summer of 2020.

So don’t allow yourself to be surprised in an era when nothing should surprise.


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