I often find it hard to get inside the heads of politicians, since the idea of running for office—particularly all that fundraising, glad-handing, and ass-kissing—has about as much appeal for me as spending a year or two eating nothing but live maggots every day. But I can appreciate that running for president, getting your party's nomination, and then losing must be positively tortuous, particularly if you spent your whole life thinking you'd be president one day. By the time you get to the end of the campaign, you've spent untold hours thinking about how your destiny is about to be realized, you will remake the world, people will carve statues of you, plus Air Force One is really cool and you can do stuff like say, "Hey, let's have Stevie Wonder come sing at our house this weekend." Then not only are all those dreams dashed, but a guy you've come to despise takes your place. What's surprising is that the likes of John McCain, John Kerry, and Al Gore don't suffer complete breakdowns and wind up joining a cult or wandering in the desert for years.
Which brings us to this news from Byron York about a gentleman who has been there and back:
Is Mitt Romney, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination and lost in 2008, ran again and won the nomination but lost the general election in 2012, really thinking about running yet again for president in 2016? Many Republicans have simply assumed not. Romney has seemed to discourage such talk in media appearances, and there has been a general belief that after losing as the party's nominee, the 67 year-old Romney would return to private life for good.
That belief is wrong. Romney is talking with advisers, consulting with his family, keeping a close eye on the emerging '16 Republican field, and carefully weighing the pluses and minuses of another run. That doesn't mean he will decide to do it, but it does mean that Mitt 2016 is a real possibility.
Nearly all of Romney's 2012 circle of advisers, finance people, and close aides remains intact. Many developed an extraordinary loyalty to Romney, who, in turn, has kept in close touch with them. Romney talks to some of them quite frequently in conversations that cover daily news, foreign and domestic policy, Hillary Clinton, the Republican field—everything that might touch on a 2016 campaign. "Virtually the entire advisory group that surrounded Mitt in 2012 are eager for him to run, almost to a man and a woman," says one plugged-in member of Romneyland.
Inane as I usually find the "is this person running for president?" sub-genre of political journalism, the idea of a third Mitt Romney campaign is undeniably fascinating, if for no other reason than the sheer insanity of it. Granted, Mitt didn't exactly get blown away last time, but is the public really going to embrace him? How could a Romney campaign come off as anything but pathetically needy? On the other hand, the idea of Romney winning isn't necessarily any crazier than, say, Ted Cruz or Rand Paul winning. As Kevin Drum says, "We still live in a 50-50 nation, after all, and for the foreseeable future I suspect that pretty much every presidential election is going to be fairly close. And Romney certainly has a decent chance of winning the Republican nomination, since he'd be competing against pretty much the same clown show as last time."
That's certainly true, and as Mitt surveys the 2016 field, he no doubt says to himself, "I could wipe the floor with these guys." There's no other potential candidate who has more experience navigating the rocky shoals of a GOP primary campaign. And I'll admit that as a writer, I found Mitt's combination of robotic soullessness, shameless pandering, and painful awkwardness to be weirdly compelling. So like Kevin, I think a third Romney candidacy is a great idea. As Mitt himself might say, "Ha! Terrific!"