The buzz is out there. Mitt Romney is reportedly signaling to the GOP donor base that if he doesn’t face a difficult primary season and is, in a sense, anointed, he would consider running for President again in 2016. Publicly he claims there is no way he would run, and I would be very surprised if he did. Yet, is it possible?
A Romney run could only happen if Republican party (read: the main power brokers and donors) agree that they see Mitt as the best chance to unite the party and beat presumed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. There is a logic to that. The Republicans will have a better shot if there is no bloody primary battle for the nomination. Not only will there be more money in the campaign coffers for the fall, but a united party should fare better than a divided one.
Of course, the biggest argument against Mitt is that he’s a proven loser in the Presidential sweepstakes. It’s a rare Presidential candidate that goes from being a loser to a winner. Richard Nixon did it in 1968, but that was eight years after his loss. Of course, Romney’s likely opponent, Hillary Clinton, lost a high stakes primary battle. But that’s not the same – and that was in 2008.
Would conservatives accept Romney? He was always seen by some as too northeastern or moderate. If he were the candidate, they would – but I’d expect them not to forego having a true conservative run in the primaries. While people like Cruz, Rubio, and Walker are probably un-electable, the tea party believes that somehow there is a secret conservative majority in the US that would come out and vote them into office. Of course, they also believe Obama should be impeached (eyes rolling).
One way Romney could deflect conservative opposition is agree early to a tea party friendly VP candidate. That would scare a lot of people (heartbeat away from the Presidency), but historically the VP choice has not been a game changer. Only John McCain’s pick of Sarah Palin seemed to actually hurt his chances, but that was less due to her views than the fact she proved herself not ready for prime time.
Romney would need to find someone who he could respect and trust – not a Cruz, perhaps Rubio (who has been a bit more careful about being too extreme) or maybe Nikki Haley, Paul Ryan (an interesting repeat performance), or Susanna Martinez. Choosing a woman would be helpful to his cause, especially if he runs against Hillary. There doesn’t seem to be an obvious black running mate in the GOP ready for the role, though neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson got a lot of conservative attention when he spoke at the 2013 prayer breakfast in proximity to President Obama.
Carson was not over the top extreme, but some of his comments (e.g., seeming to compare bestiality with homosexuality) could come back to haunt him. More damaging is his lack of political experience – would he have the discipline and ambition to run a national campaign? Yet he is intelligent, black, and conservative – the right would love to embrace someone who is brilliant but does not believe in evolution. Most arguments against evolution are inane and batty – but that’s mainly because of the people making those arguments. Dr. Carson can make a cogent and intelligent argument for conservative positions usually seen as anti-rational.
Still, he’s a long shot, as is a Mitt reboot. The only reason the possibility can be considered is that the GOP is fearful of a neophyte tea party type hijacking the primary process, yet worried about turning off conservatives already irked by Thad Cochran’s victory. Mitt developed support among the right in the 2012 campaign and he might be the Republican’s best shot to have a chance in 2016. Not likely, but….