Which Romney Will Run This Time?

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 14 2015 @ 3:17pm

Mitt Romney Holds Florida Primary Night Event

David Graham’s best guess:

Incredibly, Romney now wants to run in 2016 as The Compassionate Conservative Champion of the Poor. There’s a logic here. Since the economy has been steadily improving for years now, there’s no need for a Mr. Fix-It, and in a field with candidates like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, Mitt Romney will never be the conservative choice. The premises of both of Romney’s previous runs have been completely demolished, so he’s creating a new one out of whole cloth. According to John Dickerson, he has acknowledged that the weak economy is no longer a good basis for a campaign, but he somehow is spinning it as a boon.

Joe Klein asks whether Romney 3.0 will “come equipped with a backbone”:

The last two certainly didn’t, to the point of embarrassment. In neither campaign did Romney take a position that was even vaguely controversial with his party’s rabid base. He was disgraceful on immigration, “self-deporting” himself to Dantean circles of chicanery. He was craven on fiscal sanity, opposing in one debate—along with all his fellow candidates—a budget proposal that would include 90% cuts and 10% revenue increases. Worst of all, he self-lobotomized on the subject of health care, dumbing himself down egregiously, denying that his (successful) universal-health-coverage program in Massachusetts was the exact same thing as Barack Obama’s (increasingly successful) national version.

Suderman expects Romney to shape-shift once again:

He’s still someone whose interest in running for and being president comes before any serious inkling about what, exactly, he’d do if he got the job, and he’s still someone willing to overhaul his self-presentation in order to sell himself to whatever cohort he thinks is politically ascendant at the moment. So sure, the third installment in the Romney franchise would be different in the sense that every Romney reinvention is different from the last one. But in the ways that matter, every sign so far suggests it would just be more of the same.

The Boston Globe hears that foreign policy will one of Romney’s ace issues this time around. Drezner laughs at his adviser’s claim that, were he president right now, “There wouldn’t be an ISIS at all, and Putin would know his place in life.” Larison pounces on that quote:

It would be one thing for Romney backers to think that U.S. policies would be better than they are if he were president, but it is absurd to believe that other regimes and groups around the world would behave in a dramatically different fashion or would not exist under a different administration. By what magical powers of resolve would Romney have eliminated ISIS? How exactly would he have made Putin to “know his place”? Presumably this adviser thinks this would happen because Romney’s policies would convey “strength” rather than “weakness,” but that just underscores that this adviser–like Romney–doesn’t have a clue how this would happen.

I don’t doubt Romney’s sincerity. But I do think he and those close to him are fooling themselves that he can simply proclaim that he is running a new and different campaign — one based on foreign policy and poverty, according to Politico — and that will be that. … There’s no question that Romney feels a call to service and believes that he is uniquely able to solve the problems of the GOP and the country at the moment. But, the assumption that he can pluck the good things from his past candidacies while wiping away — “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”-style — all the bad stuff from voters’ minds is a deeply flawed reading of how politics works. And it’s why it makes little sense for Romney to run again.

Yglesias suspects that greed is fueling this run:

To really understand why it’s happening, you need to remember this one sentence from an article Sean Sullivan wrote in December 2013: “Romney’s seven highest-paid campaign staffers all made more in 2012 than anyone on Obama’s campaign.” That is nice work if you can get it. Another relevant point is from Jim Rutenberg’s July 2012 article about the network of wealthy Mormon families who’ve supported Romney in his every political campaign. Add access to a unique donor base to a candidate whose known for generously compensating his senior campaign staff, and you have not quite a rationale for a national campaign but a reason for a group of seasoned political operatives to come up with one.

Cassidy’s view of the big picture:

Perhaps the lesson is that Presidential candidates aren’t like the rest of us. The same qualities of overconfidence, manic ambition, and propensity for risk-taking that enable them to embrace the horrors of a modern campaign also make it hard for them to grasp reality.

(Photo from Getty)