Mitt Romney's comeback

The Washington Post notes that President Obama is about as welcome as a walking, talking root canal on the Democrat campaign trail, while Republicans can’t get enough of Mitt Romney:

Over three days in mid-August, Romney will campaign for GOP Senate and gubernatorial candidates in West Virginia, North Carolina and Arkansas, aides said. In September, he is planning visits to the presidential swing states of Colorado and Virginia.

Romney is filling up his October schedule, as well. Senate hopefuls in Iowa and New Hampshire are eager for him to return before November’s midterms, while Romney is weighing trips to other Senate battlegrounds. At least one high-profile Senate campaign said it has produced a television advertisement featuring Romney ready to air in the fall.

“Democrats don’t want to be associated with Barack Obama right now, but Republicans are dying to be associated with Mitt Romney,” said Spencer Zwick, a longtime Romney confidant who chaired his national finance council. He added: “Candidates, campaigns and donors in competitive races are calling saying, ‘Can we get Mitt here?’ They say, ‘We’ve looked at the polling, and Mitt Romney moves the needle for us.’ That’s somewhat unexpected for someone who lost the election.”

For a party without a consensus leader — nor a popular elder statesman like Democratic former president Bill Clinton — Romney is stepping forward in both red and blue states to fill that role for the GOP.

This is said to be fueling talk of a Romney comeback in the 2016 elections, where he’d jump into the race late and become the centrist / establishment candidate.  There’s some evidence that Romney himself is open to the idea, or at least not as closed as he used to be.

I wouldn’t get too carried away with his newfound campaign-trail magnetism, though.  The Post’s idea that he’s essentially the titular head of the GOP at the moment, sort of like the centrist version of Sarah Palin after the 2008 elections, is a bit far-fetched.  Perhaps Romney could fill that position if he really wants to, but he’d need to do some speech and op-ed work that really knocked everyone’s socks off.  The jump from there to serious 2016 presidential contender is a very long one.  His best strategy to achieve such consideration from voters disappointed with the outcome of his 2012 race would be to reveal himself as a changed, improved, tougher and wiser candidate, forged into iron by the crucible of his 2012 loss.  

I like the man and respect his achievements, including the huge amount of time and money he spends on charity, but I’m not soon going to forget the deer-in-headlights expression he and his campaign spent far too much time wearing as they got kicked in the groin by Obama’s gutter-dwelling campaign and their media pals… especially since that’s what I spent most of my early blogging career, from 2009 onward, hoping we would not get from the next Republican presidential candidate.  I’m going to need a good deal of convincing to believe he’s retooled himself into a fighting machine by running through the snow and carrying ideological logs around on his back, hardening himself for a slugfest against Ivan Rodham Drago.  I’ve heard it suggested that Romney is an inherently more viable candidate because so much of the heavy Democrat ordnance has already been dropped on him, but I’m not buying that for a second.  The party that controls the media will have little trouble making Bain Capital bellyaching sound fresh again in a couple of years, if they need to.

At the moment, Romney benefits from an unusually powerful case of buyer’s remorse – hence all those mildly interesting, but alas not very meaningful, polls that he’d mop the floor with Obama if the election was held today.  Romney was exactly right about so many things Obama is so obviously wrong about.  From economics to foreign policy, it’s Mitt Romney’s world; Barack Obama just plays golf in it.

I also would not discount the strength of the feeling by many Republican voters that the 2012 election was stolen, between Obama’s campaign tactics, media bias (when was the last time a debate moderator leaped onstage to save a Republican candidate, the way Candy Crowley threw herself in front of Obama on Benghazi?), the dissolution of so much Obama campaign rhetoric, and of course the IRS scandal.  Also, Obama engineered his victory with a combination of base-appeal politics and mudslinging.  The Democrat base is dispirited with him now, and of course they’re not going to turn up at Republican campaign rallies anyway, while Team Obama’s low blows and character assassination is already a distant memory.  

Of course Romney looks better when it’s just him, talking about what he wants to discuss, rather than dealing with media hits about his 20-year-old dog transportation methods and 40-year-old high school hijinks.  His biggest campaign weakness was his difficulty with controlling the narrative, or saying things that allowed the other side to take the narrative away from him.  He threw a lot of weak passes that got intercepted.  I’m skeptical that his arm has improved enough to make him a first-round pick for 2016 quarterback.