A Romney rerun might be what Republicans need in 2016

Campaign 2016
by Kent Covington & Nick Eicher
Posted 10/01/14, 04:18 pm

This article is the 11th in the White House Wednesday series by The World and Everything in It looking at potential 2016 candidates for president. Earlier installments profiled Republicans Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, Paul Ryan, Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, and Chris Christie, and Democrats Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, and Andrew Cuomo.

Until recently, it seemed certain that Republican Mitt Romney’s political career ended with his 2012 defeat by President Barack Obama. 

In the following months, the governor left little doubt that he would cheer on the next Republican nominee from his living room.

“It was a fabulous experience. I loved it. But … but we’re not doing that again,” he said in an interview on CBS in 2013. 

Since then, events have vindicated Romney, whose opponents ridiculed him in 2012 for several predictions: that Russia would pose a threat to U.S. allies and interests; that militant Islamists would overtake Iraq if the United States did not maintain a military presence there; and that millions of people would lose their health insurance due to Obamacare. In an August interview with Bloomberg television, his 2012 running mate Paul Ryan was asked what he thought was fueling the growing buzz about another Romney run.

“I think there’s some buyer’s remorse,” Ryan said. “I think people realize that a lot of the things he said in the campaign, the projections he made with respect to Russia and Iraq and others are true.”

A Washington Post-ABC poll held one year after the election found Romney would have tied with the president if the election were held in November 2013. By August 2014, a CNN poll found voters would choose Romney over Obama by a nine-point margin. GOP candidates in the midterm elections have Romney’s number on speed dial. His seemingly growing esteem within the party is unusual for a losingpresidential nominee.

The governor says he does not plan on running for president again. In interviews, though, he keeps leaving the door open at least a crack, saying things like “circumstances can change.” And a recent Ann Romney interview with Neil Cavuto of Fox News really got the political world buzzing.

Cavuto asked her about a possible scenario in which establishment favorite Jeb Bush doesn’t run, leaving a large void her husband could once again fill. “Well, we’ll see, won’t we Neil,” she said.

The GOP establishment seemed to assume New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was going to take the mantle from Romney and run with it. But now political turmoil surrounds Christie and has lingered for months, threatening his potential candidacy. If Christie is not in a strong position a year from now, and if Jeb Bush decides not to run, which is a possibility, then Romney might jump in.

One of his biggest weaknesses in the 2012 campaign was his ineffectiveness at conveying empathy. In exit polling right after the election, voters were asked which quality they found most important in a candidate. The choices were: vision for the future, shares my values, is a strong leader, and finally, cares about people like me. Among voters who said the most important quality WAS that the candidate cares about people like me, Romney lost 18 percent to 81 percent.

But  two things would put him a better position for 2016. First, the electorate has started to suspect many of the attacks made against Romney by Obama and the Democrats were, at the very least, exaggerated. The same attacks on Romney won’t be quite as effective the second time around. He also has had a couple years of fairly positive press, along with a documentary on Netflix, which has helped to humanize him.

The other factor is, if he’s up against Hillary Clinton, she’s got all the same problems connecting with voters. She also has trouble conveying empathy, is filthy rich, and has made comments recently that make her seem out-of-touch with the average American. Democrats can’t really attack Romney the same way if Clinton’s their nominee.

Listen to White House Wednesday on The World and Everything in It:

Nick Eicher

Nick lives in St. Louis, loves the Blues (as in the NHL), is executive producer of WORLD Radio, and co-hosts WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickEicher.

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