Why Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush top list of preferred candidates among Republicans
Marco Rubio not slowing down as 2016 decision nears.
If you follow the commentary of conservatives in the blogosphere and on social media, the idea of another Mitt Romney run for the White House is pretty much the worst idea ever, a sentiment which is consistent with the revised history of recent American politics that one hears from this segment of the world of punditry. Calling President Obama’s speech “disappointing”, Mitt Romney posted on Facebook his response to the State of the Union address, saying it was “a missed opportunity to lead.” Mitt Romney will charge Mississippi State University $50,000 to deliver a lecture on campus next week, most of which will go to charity — a dramatically lower fee than the $250,000 to $300,000 Hillary Rodham Clinton requires for her university lectures.
In assessing that question, I think it might be useful to compare the world that Republicans warned us that Obama’s policies would create against the world as we now know it to be.With Jeb Bush (and now Mitt Romney) eating up the headlines, it’s easy to overlook how Marco Rubio has been pushing forward toward a possible presidential run. * His own “Team Marco” donor gathering on Friday and Saturday in Miami Beach. John McCain (R) of Arizona, by the time 2012 rolled around the former Massachusetts governor came to be seen during the 2012 cycle as the supposed moderate, with some even labeling the man who was cheered at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in 2008 even as he announced he was dropping out of the race as a “Republican In Name Only” due to his association with a health-care reform plan that many saw as being the impetus for the Affordable Care Act. Remember when massive Ebola outbreaks would overwhelm our public-health system and prove once and for all the incompetence of government? (Not one single person has died after contracting the disease in this country.) Remember when Mitt Romney was promising that thanks to his superior business acumen, the unemployment rate would be 6 percent by the end of his first term as president? (It is already down to 5.6 percent, two years before the Romney deadline. After Romney lost the general election in 2012, the standard claim on the right blamed his loss on the fact that, once again, the GOP had not nominated someone who has “conservative enough” and that this caused conservative voters to stay home.
Rubio’s raised millions through his Reclaim America PAC and invested that in a fundraising machine and growing a political team that has now worked together for several years. For the better part of a year, I’ve been telling friends and family members that there’s no way Romney would run again. (Here I am saying as much last summer.) And now it looks like I might have been wrong. Romney’s fee stands in stark contrast to Clinton’s, the presumptive 2016 Democratic front-runner who has spoken to dozens of industry associations, Wall Street banks, universities and other groups.
Remember when Republicans were demanding that Obama take “forceful” yet unspecified actions to punish Vladimir Putin for meddling in Ukraine, warning that Obama’s efforts to organize economic sanctions would be useless? (Those sanctions have since helped to cripple the Russian economy, leaving the ruble devalued and Putin chastized). Interestingly, though, many of their fellow Republicans clearly don’t feel the same way: Fifty-nine percent of Republicans would like to see Romney jump into the 2016 race, while only 26 percent believe he should stay out, according to the CBS News poll. The former secretary of state’s speaking fees at universities have typically also gone to a family-connected charity — in her case, the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation.
I now realize it’s not so much that I didn’t think he would run as that I didn’t and still don’t want him to run — and not because I’m a Democrat and think he’d be such a formidable opponent. However, her high fees have drawn campus protests and sharp criticisms from Republicans, who have said they demonstrate a likely presidential candidate who has grown out of touch.
The reason I don’t want Romney to run is that I think he’s a decent and in some ways admirable man — and if he runs he’s likely to make an utter fool of himself. At the University of California Los Angeles, Clinton’s $300,000 fee prompted a university official to inquire with her speaking agency whether the university could receive a discount. The GOP’s best prospect is probably with someone else heading a ticket that combines foreign policy, military, business acumen and governing experience. Or when it was going to sent insurance rates into a death spiral, doubling or even tripling the cost of health insurance (a 2 percent average rate increase for 2015)?
The GOP would also be wise to pick candidates who wouldn’t be lightning rods for Democratic attack dogs: a governor, but not Chris Christie ; a woman, but not Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann ; a business person, but not a “Wall Street” capitalist. According to a financial disclosure released during that campaign, he collected more than $360,000 in speaking fees in 2011 from appearances at Barclay’s Bank, Goldentree Asset Management and other companies.
I was teaching political science at Brigham Young University and living in Salt Lake City back in the late 1990s when Romney swooped into town to galvanize the foundering organizing committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics. Like many of my Mormon students at BYU, he was a little too earnest for my taste, but like the best of those students, he was impressive — exuding ambition, confidence, and competence. Missing from your editorial is what I would call the “stay at home coalition.” Many conservatives will not support a Republican nominee who fails to directly address President Obama’s ignoring his constitutional obligation to faithfully execute the laws. It outlines no requirements for luxury amenities, such as food or equipment in his green room, though it is possible those kinds of requests have been made by his representatives in private communications with the university.
Third, demonstrate domestic-policy accomplishment by touting how he’d engineered and instituted a sweeping health care reform plan in Massachusetts that had made coverage nearly universal in the state. The first two campaign planks didn’t appeal to me at all — indeed, I’d taken an early swipe at Romney on the religion question in a January 2007 cover story for The New Republic — but the last one sounded impressively pragmatic and reformist to me. Aside from its absurdity, the strategy left Romney with very little to talk about besides how much he loved America, and how his experience as a venture capitalist taught him how to create jobs. This runs counter to the arguments of people who are part of that base who claim, on a regular basis, that “the American people” are yearning for a hard-right conservative in the mold of Ronald Reagan, not the Ronald Reagan who was actually president, mind you, but the myth that conservatives have created of a Ronald Reagan who governed to the hard right, never compromised, and provided the GOP with all it needs to know about how to win elections and govern, even in an era of divided government.
What voters were left with was a unified portrait of a man seemingly fixated on wealth and his own personal, nearly miraculous powers of job-creation. His successor came up short — and the economy has since rebounded more quickly and more strongly than even he himself had predicted for his own presidency. Looking back through recent history, the Republican Party typically doesn’t end up nominating “maverick” candidates in the sense of picking the candidate that appeals most to the base.
In the era before primaries controlled the process, of course, this was largely due to the influence of party bosses and insiders in picking the nominees, but if anything the primary system has made the likelihood that the eventual GOP nominee will come from the “establishment” even more likely. This is how candidates like McCain and Romney were able to hold off challenges from the right and win the nomination, and it’s likely to have a similar impact on the race in 2016 as well. Rick Santorum, and it seems pretty clear that, despite the rise of the tea party, the GOP nomination process remains inclined to pick a candidate closer to the middle of American politics. Romney 2016 will be Proficiency Personified — the ultimate Manager-in-Chief — a consultant for hire, ready, willing, and eager to take charge of the country and do… I actually have no idea what he would do. Conservative columnist Ross Douthat touched on this core truth in a humorous tweet written a few days before writing a more polished (but less incisive) column on the once-and-future Romney.
Romney 2028: Neo-reactionary.” One needn’t assume that Romney will drift ever-further rightward to recognize the reality captured here — namely, that the substance of the man is protean, fluid, in flux. As The New York Times recently noted, relying on unnamed “advisers,” Ann “believes deeply that her husband owes it to the country to take a serious look at running a third time.” No, actually Ann, he doesn’t owe us anything at all.
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