The Boston Globe reports that the “Mitt Romney diaspora” – that mighty “army of former aides and advisers from Romney’s long political career” – has spread out through the campaigns of 2016 GOP hopefuls, and come together in a “stem-to-stern effort that has united old comrades even as they nominally play for different teams: stopping Donald Trump.”
Trump, soaring to the top of both national and early-state polls, has exercised a centrifugal force on much of the rest of the 17-candidate Republican field. At the same time, he has worried establishment Republicans who complain that he is rendering the Republican brand less viable in a general election, regardless of who winds up with the nomination.
Trump is, in a sense, the anti-Mitt. And he is leading, by no small margin, the would-be heirs to Romney’s throne as sovereign of the party’s moderate, establishment, country-club wing.
That faction of the GOP is where most of the Romney alumni have landed in the 2016 cycle. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush appears to have garnered the most former Romney hands, including longtime advisers Beth Myers and Peter Flaherty; his top 2012 New Hampshire and Iowa strategists Rich Killion and David Kochel; and Mike Murphy, a veteran GOP consultant with longstanding ties to both Romney and Bush who is leading a super PAC backing Bush. His campaign manager, Danny Diaz, was a senior adviser to Romney in 2012.
Most of the rest of the Romney graduates are splayed across campaigns competing with Bush for the voters who propelled Romney to the 2012 nomination.
Um… you guys know that you lost one of the most winnable presidential elections in recent history, right?
You took Mitt Romney through a primary campaign in which Republican voters desperately tried to find someone else to rally behind, going through one flash-in-the-pan after another, before reluctantly settling in behind the former governor of Massachusetts. You were then utterly destroyed by a vicious Obama team that left you gasping like beached fish every news cycle, landing one below-the-belt punch after another. Rarely did the glow of oncoming headlights leave your doe-like eyes.
Romney created openings with his oratory, some of which was exploited very unfairly by the other side – recall the Democrat hysteria over Romney supposedly declaring that he “loved to fire people,” when what he said, quite clearly, was that Americans shouldn’t trade private commerce and their right to say “no” for corrupt, inescapable government programs like ObamaCare. He was absolutely right about a great many things, vindicated by history more thoroughly and quickly than any other losing candidate in recent memory.
But he did make some real gaffes, missed some golden opportunities, and worked against the severe handicap of being unable to effectively exploit one of Obama’s greatest weaknesses, his health-care scheme. He spent too much of the campaign playing defense, and waiting for penalty flags the media was never going to throw. He never really had a sense of where the electorate was at. Even his indisputable managerial skills ultimately failed him, leading to technical disasters in his campaign system, and the horrid grand finale of being genuinely shocked that he lost.
Romneyworld was shocked when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie embraced Barack Obama at a crucial moment in the campaign endgame. They were stunned Obama sold his Benghazi lies, and then escaped responsibility for telling them. They couldn’t believe the crap Joe Biden pulled in his vice-presidential debate with Paul Ryan. They were astonished Obama’s campaign and surrogates would accuse him of murder and tax evasion. They were surprised by everything. That’s the problem.
“Romney himself has signaled the charge against Trump, taking to Twitter to criticize Trump in the wake of the latter’s insult to Senator John McCain’s war record,” the Globe writes. No doubt he’s flummoxed that didn’t finish Trump off.
Mitt Romney is a truly extraordinary man who had a great deal to offer as President, but first he had to win that campaign, and America is paying a stiff price for his failure to do so. Many of Obama’s successful re-election tactics could be described as populism, similar to the Trump-propelling forces that Republican elites still don’t understand at all.
Some of the individual consultants and campaign workers probably do – Romney had some great people working for him – but the total campaign was less than the sum of its parts, and that’s more a question of leadership than technical ability. Great crew members often sign onto leaky boats, and no matter how dazzling the crew might be, the boat still sinks.
The Globe says Romney alums have a sense of “we’ve-seen-this-before” with Trump, because they watched the likes of Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich flare and fizzle in 2012. Well, no, my friends, you haven’t seen this before, because Trump isn’t like them. The last thing Republican voters need in 2016 is a campaign army that’s still fighting the last war… and it’s a war they ultimately lost.
There are many differences between Trump and the brief non-Romney sensations of 2012, but one of the most important is staying power. Trump has it, and not just because he’s got a ton of money. More importantly, he’s drawing huge amounts of media attention without spending any of it. It might not be enough to win the nomination – it seems awfully early to me for a coronation, or to count candidates with their own forms of staying power, like Jeb Bush, totally out of the race – but Trump has displayed a plausible ability to go the distance. Maybe he’ll say the wrong magic words and implode some day, but so far that hasn’t been working for the Establishment. What else have you got?
“Trump is, in a sense, the anti-Mitt. And he is leading, by no small margin, the would-be heirs to Romney’s throne as sovereign of the party’s moderate, establishment, country-club wing,” the Boston Globe notes. That’s putting it mildly. Perhaps more importantly, the other distinctly non-Mitty folks – Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and Ted Cruz – have most of the polling strength. The Mittish candidates are currently divvying up a minority of poll respondents between them. They mostly seem to be losing ground in each new round of polls.
Maybe this will pass – it’s a long campaign, things will change – but the anti-Establishment, no-business-as-usual sentiment among voters seems very genuine, and that’s not good news for country-clubbers. A similar dynamic is arguably at work on the Democrat side.
It could be Republican voters will conclude a torrid fling with Trumpism and turn in a different direction, but they don’t seem very interested in rerunning the 2012 campaign, and it’s hard to blame them.