On Thursday, the National Journal touted a recent New Hampshire poll that claims Mitt Romney is the front runner in the state for the Republican Party’s 2016 nomination for president.
Romney himself has dismissed the idea that he will run again in 2016. When The New York Times asked him earlier this month if “he would consider a third presidential run,” his answer was emphatic.
Despite Romney’s denials, the Journal suggests “[w]e might be experiencing Mittmentum 3.0. The Netflix documentary about his 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns was recently released to the excitement of political insiders everywhere. GOP insiders want him to come back.”
The Journal appears to be encouraging Romney to run. “He’s done this kind of race before,” it wrote. “He’s got the staff. He’s got the loyalty. He has the money. Time has passed.”
However, the reality is that Romney’s time has passed. Should he choose to run for president again in 2016, as the Journal apparently hopes he will, Willard Mitt Romney risks becoming the Millard Fillmore of the 21st century.
If he were to run and win the nomination, it would be a sure sign the Republican Party in 2016 is well on its way to becoming the Whig Party of 1856.
Fillmore was the last Whig President, a position he ascended to in 1850 from the vice presidency on the death of President Zachary Taylor, who won the presidential election of 1848, the last national election the Whigs won.
Fillmore was denied the Whig Party’s nomination for president in 1852. That honor went to General Winfield Scott, who lost the 1852 general election to Democrat Franklin Pierce in a landslide.
Undaunted, Fillmore ran for and won both the Whig Party and American Party nominations for president in 1856. That election was an even greater disaster for the Whigs than the election of 1852. Democrat James Buchanan won a majority of the electoral college votes and a plurality of the popular vote, followed by the new Republican Party’s nominee, Jesse Fremont. Fillmore and his allies finished a distant third, winning only 21% of the popular vote and the eight electoral college votes of one state – Maryland.
Some parallels between Millard Fillmore and Willard Mitt Romney are hard to escape.
Romney lost the Republican nomination to John McCain in 2008.
He won the Republican nomination in 2012, but lost the general election to Barack Obama in 2012.
If Romney runs for and wins the Republican nomination for president in 2016, it could inspire a third party challenge from dissatisfied conservative Republicans and Independents. If that happens, the Republican Party in 2016 will look a lot more like the Whigs of 1856 than the Republicans of 2004, the last time the party won a presidential election.