Eight years ago, John Kerry briefly considered another run for president, after also having failed to oust an incumbent despised by his own party’s base and mistaking the outpouring of commitment on his behalf as an expression of personal loyalty, rather than the partisan loyalty it actually was. Soon enough, Kerry came to his senses. Romney will, too.
Allahpundit, on the other hand, takes Mitt seriously:
Romney would surely prefer to see Bush win the nomination than someone more conservative. If he knows in his heart of hearts that he’s not running, he should grit his teeth and encourage Jeb to pile up the dough. The better armed Bush is financially, the better his chances to run the table and snuff the tea-party threat early. Why force him to slow his roll if Ted Cruz will benefit?
Meanwhile, I keep seeing quotes in stories about Romney’s deliberations noting that he’s not impressed with Bush’s political skills, doesn’t believe Bush will have an easier time on his private equity dealings than Romney himself had, and, frankly, may not like Bush all that much personally. … If all of that is true, that Romney legitimately thinks Bush can’t beat Hillary if he’s the nominee, then yeah — suddenly it seems entirely plausible that he’s “likely” to run. Against all odds and logic, he may have convinced himself that he, Mitt Romney, is the very best the GOP can do against the Democrats for two consecutive presidential cycles. That seems to me the strongest explanation for why he’d dare risk splitting the establishment by waging a war of the RINOs against Jeb while Cruz, Paul, and the other righties sit back and laugh.
Philip Klein is befuddled:
Romney may have believed some of the stories that surfaced last year about nostalgia for Romney. But this sentiment on the Right (such as “see, Romney warned about the threat of Russia”) was more about pointing out the failures of Obama’s second term than representative of any newfound love of Romney. Conservatives have not warmed up to Romney. They’ve gone easier on him, because they assumed he was retired from politics and they don’t see the need to continue kicking him. That will change should he run for president again, a prospect that perplexingly is looking more likely.
Bernstein wonders if there’s really any enthusiasm for Bush or Romney:
Republican party actors might be so desperate for a recognizable order to the campaign and familiar names that they will simply flock to Bush or Romney. But it’s at least as likely that real enthusiasm for Romney in particular, and perhaps for Bush as well, doesn’t extend far beyond their relatively small circle of loyalists, and that most party actors — politicians, campaign and governing professionals, donors and activists, party officials and staff, party-aligned interest groups and media — are more than ready to move on. …
What we need now is some reporting about what Republican party actors, especially the ones outside the Bush and Romney orbits, are thinking. While we’ve had indications that some big-money donors want a recognizable candidate right now, it isn’t at all clear how deep that sentiment goes.
Silver, who posts the above chart, sizes up the Republican field:
While Romney could perhaps beat out Bush, whose candidacy hasn’t been received all that well by conservative elites so far, a fresher face like Walker or Rubio could be more problematic. Or if the establishment field became too crowded, it could open up room for a candidate like Paul to win by plurality. Romney’s path is not impossible — after all, Republicans nominated him in 2012. But he faces a tougher sell and a tougher field than he did four years ago.
Waldman doesn’t count out Romney:
[I]f there’s one other thing you can say about Mitt Romney, it’s that he’s persistent. He lost in his first run for office, a Senate race against Ted Kennedy in 1994, then came back eight years later and won a race to become Massachusetts governor. He lost to John McCain in his first run for president in 2008, then came back four years later and got the Republican nomination. So why couldn’t he lose the general election in 2012, then win it all in 2016? To him, it probably makes perfect sense.
Nate Cohn suspects a Romney candidacy could help Rand Paul win an early state:
The odds that Mr. Paul spoils the fortunes of a more traditional candidate increase as more such credible candidates, like Mr. Romney, enter the field. Mr. Romney remains a long shot to win the nomination; it is unclear whether he will even run again. But if he does, and attracts any substantial support among party leaders this year, the odds of a more unusual outcome might increase.
Larison argues along the same lines:
Romney’s most likely supporters are “somewhat conservative” and moderate voters that couldn’t care less about Bush’s immigration and education views, so attacking Bush from the right on these issues will leave them cold and offer them no incentive to prefer Romney to Bush. The good news of a Romney run for the other candidates is that it will siphon away some support from Bush in early states and prevent Bush from gaining much early momentum. That makes a long, drawn-out nomination contest more likely than it would have been if Romney had wisely stayed out of the race. Romney’s ego trip makes it slightly more likely that an insurgent Republican candidate will come away with the nomination for the first time in decades.
And Beutler thinks Romney might have been competitive if things hadn’t started turning around for Obama:
Romney has never been a crusader, and was thus ill suited to the ideological battles of 2012. His best political attribute has always been a reputation for managerial competence. But he cashed in on that virtue at the wrong time, and as such, has legions of supporters, who support him not because he was a successful governor and business man, but because he promised to wrest the country from the clutches of socialism. It’d be untenable for him to pander to that element in a climate of full employment, but it’d be just as untenable for him to step out of sync with his supporters by promising to be a responsible steward of a full-employment economy.
Recent Dish on Mitt’s fledgling campaign here.