It is easy to understand why some reports are surfacing about the 2012 GOP’s nominee return to the field for a third try at the White House. After all, Team Clinton will be makings its fourth bid, and that depth of high stakes/high cost/high profile campaign experience and immediate access to a deep bench of politcal talents stands them a considerable advantage over everyone in the GOP field save perhaps former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, with Ohio Governor John Kasich a distant second to that. Presidential campaigns are large and complex operations, with fundraising being just the most obvious chore that takes networks and experienced staff. Learning from mistakes helps former beaten candidates win the nomination —see Jonah’s excellent piece from Wednesday– and hone crucial skill sets for the fall. Etc. Etc. Etc. Yes, it is easy to understand the reports. At this point, it looks like Ted Cruz could dance to the nomination on a combination of principled channeling of the Tea Party, incredible smarts, and the rhetorical gifts that suit him to the age. It is along way off, as Jonah notes, but not really. A blink and we will be in Iowa. Another blink and we will be wherever the RNC choses to put the June/July 2016 convention. (Cleveland!) Yes, it is very easy to understand the Romney boomlet. Senator Cruz has lots of people worried.
But it is much easier to believe Governor Romney’s emphatic “no, no, no, no” Unlike the passion that drove President Nixon’s comeback in ’68 after defeats in ’60 and ’62, the White House doesn’t seem to obsess the former Massachusetts governor the way it did RN and, yes, Reagan, who had failed twice to get there –’68’s short-lived effort and ’76’s epic battle with President Ford– before he arrived at 1600 in 1981.
After watching “Mitt,” the only way I see a change of mind happening within the Romney family would be further erosion of the Republican field, an emphatic “no” from Jeb, a pass from his ’12 running mate Paul Ryan, and even more. Not impossible circumstances. Both Governors Kasich and Walker would have to either lose re-election –and they are both on courses to win handily right now– and they have already been vetted by extreme levels of scrutiny so implosions are not going to happen. They won’t collapse, either of them. Which makes a Romney 3.0 extremely unlikely, and even if they both took a pass or a cliff jump, even then Romney might refuse suggestions of duty. He has done more than his share to try and stop the country’s accelerating march to the left.
Romney was right, of course —last year and in the years before that– about the course of an Obama second term, only perhaps much less emphatic than he ought to have been, but understandably so given the MSM’s eagerness to attack him on credibility, eager to catch him in a contrived Romneycare/Obamacare comparison. Romney will be a key voice in deciding who will be the nominee, absolutely. But a contestant? Give it a 10% chance, at best. make that 5%.
When the GOP was rushing towards Goldwater in ’64 like it may rush towards Cruz in 2016, party elders –Ohio’s Jim Rhodes, Michigan’s George Romney, Nixon– gathered in Cleveland at a Governors’ Association meet to try and stop it. That effort failed because of the lateness of the hour and with it the chimera of last-minute interventions by party “bigs” vanished into the reality of present-day politics. People have to run to be in a position to win. They have to file paperwork, period. While no one needs to work the Iowa fields, and a former nominee wouldn’t even have to be present in New Hampshire, the new calendar will bring filing deadlines for the two March Super Tuesdays –March 1 (states holding contests with allocation of delegates according to proportions of the votes cast) and either March 15 or 22 when states which want to hold winner-take-all primaries may do so under the new RNC rules. (Hard to figure out from the rules if states can hold winner-take-alls on March 15th or have to wait until the 22nd, but the states hungriest for none February attention, dollars and influence over the contest would do well to schedule a winner-take-all-contest on whichever is the correct date.)
Tell me when the filing deadlines for most of the two new March Super Tuesdays occur and I’ll tell you the last date of possible candidacies. (We don’t know those filing deadlines yet.) If Senator Ted Cruz does get up a huge head of steam and frightens people like Pennsylvania Congressman Charlie Dent and all the lefties in the MSM, there wouldn’t be a prayer of stopping him unless a strong well-funded candidate was in the field, not in the waiting room. And like the collapse of the Cleveland cabal in ’64, intervention in opposition to a momentum-backed conservative movement challenger will be a mirage. If Ted Cruz wins Iowa and South Carolina –and right now he owns the messaging train into the hearts and minds of the Tea Party and even trad cons itching for a fight because of his carefully timed confrontations with both the president and the party’s elite– only a candidate with name in place on all the key ballots will have a prayer of claiming to be the alternative to the young, principled firebrand out of Texas.
That is very, very hard to see being Mitt Romney. For one thing, Governors Kasich and Walker would have to both be part of the delegation asking. They are the likeliest of “Cruz-stoppers,” not the 2012 nominee. Watch and see which way Romney inclines in that race, or if he should even hint at appreciation for Cruz’s message. Now wouldn’t that be something? Romney and Cruz share some of the same political adversaries, like the Wall Street Journal editorial board and Senator John McCain, and the former Massachusetts governor spent a lifetime picking undervalued future winners.