2016 Whispers: Time to Take a Third Look at Mitt Romney?

Posted: Feb 17, 2014 1:00 PM
2016 Whispers: Time to Take a Third Look at Mitt Romney?

Time and again, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has vowed he would never run for president in 2016. He said so explicitly in the new original Netflix documentary “Mitt,” and continues to do so. But that doesn’t necessarily mean Republican primary voters and even some grassroots activists want him to retire from public life. In fact, many don’t.

The Boston Globe has the scoop:

But in recent weeks, a strange thing has happened: Some supporters and donors, pollsters and pundits are starting to suggest — without irony — that the former Massachusetts governor run for president in 2016.

“Once a month, someone would e-mail or call and say he should run again,” said Ron Kaufman, a longtime Romney adviser. “Now I get it every day — from the grass roots, and from donors. I get it every day.”

Kaufman made clear that there was no behind-the-scenes maneuvering to persuade Romney to run again. A second Romney adviser said he was also approached frequently by former supporters and donors, asking him to persuade Romney to run again in 2016.

Those close to Romney say he is giving the talk little thought, and party operatives in key states and some of his former advisers say they cannot imagine a scenario in which he would run.

Is Mittmentum real? Remember, as the Globe notes, Richard Nixon lost the presidential contest after securing his party’s nomination in 1960. Eight years later, however, he won the Republican nomination and the presidency. Thus, who’s to say Mitt Romney can’t mount a heroic comeback, too? It’s not exactly unprecedented.

Nevertheless, grassroots activists are actively splashing cold water on that idea:

One of the biggest hurdles would be convincing party officials and donors that he deserves yet another chance.

“He could not win the nomination. There’s no way,” said Henry Barbour, a Republican National Committee member from Mississippi. “Look, he had his shot. But the party has to move on. I can’t imagine that we would renominate Governor Romney when he lost in the general election last time.”

I’m inclined to agree, and most people probably would too. Yes, as the Globe reminds us, Ronald Reagan ran for president three times before he won the nation’s most coveted political office; but he was only at the top of the ticket the third and final time he ran as a non-incumbent. Mitt Romney wouldn't have that luxury: he's already a failed presidential nominee.

Still, the presumed field is overcrowded with Tea Party types and conservative office seekers. Which begs the question: where are all the establishment candidates? Paul Ryan is reportedly focused on his job in Congress, Jeb Bush is still testing the waters, and Chris Christie is just trying to survive at this point, the Globe reports. So that leaves us with…Mitt Romney?

The buzz around Romney running was sufficient enough that Purple Strategies, a Virginia-based firm, included Romney in a poll of New Hampshire voters three weeks ago. He came out on top, with 25 percent, among Republican primary voters.

Yet Republican activists in early primary states say they have a hard time imagining a Romney run. “I don’t think anyone is taking the prospect of him running again seriously at all,” said Fergus Cullen, a former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party.

“There’s not a lot of animosity toward Romney,” Cullen said. “There’s a lot of respect and fondness for him. There’s a lot of gratitude for the investment he made in trying to become president. But, you know, it didn’t work out. It’s pretty rare in politics that someone takes three shots at something.”

There sure is -- but that won’t necessarily translate into a third presidential bid. And while he may still crave the presidency, is it really worth putting his family through another grueling national campaign only to find himself, in the end, disappointed and heartbroken again? I don’t think so.

Do you?