Byron York reports that the campaign about nothing is considering mounting up one more time.
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.
A significant number of Romney’s top financial supporters from 2012 have decided not to commit to any other 2016 candidate until they hear a definitive word from Romney. They believe they are doing it with the tacit approval of Romney himself… The key question for Romney, according to those who have talked to him, is whether former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush decides to run. Romney is said to believe that, other than himself, Bush is the only one of the current Republican field who could beat Hillary Clinton in a general election.
In one of his first public appearances of the 2014 campaign, former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida had a vivid preview Wednesday of the challenges he would face with his party’s conservative base should he seek the Republican nomination for president in 2016. Standing alongside Thom Tillis, the North Carolina House speaker and Republican Senate candidate, Mr. Bush outlined his views on two of the issues he cares most passionately about: immigration policy and education standards. But as Mr. Bush made the case for an immigration overhaul and the Common Core standards, Mr. Tillis gently put distance between himself and his guest of honor, who had flown here from Florida on a dreary day to offer his endorsement in a race that could decide which party controls the Senate.
And that type of reception is not going to change any time soon. Despite Mitt Romney’s reported belief that only Jeb can beat Hillary, the general wisdom on the right side of the aisle has been that this is a much stronger field of potential candidates – including multiple governors and at least three widely-known Senators – than in 2012. So why run Romney with the 5.0 update? Why would Republicans want to double – nay, triple-dip the chip?
Three obvious reasons combine: the interest of the consultant class, who want more than anything else a candidate whose checks will clear; a portion of the donor base terrified of rising populism in the party, who wants a Wall Street-friendly candidate to tuck them in at night and whisper away their fears; and a candidate whose principal weaknesses were his intrinsic oddness, his insulation from normality, and his tendency to fundamentally misunderstand the electorate, now apparently considering basing another campaign on one more round of misperceptions.
Americans regularly go through a period of compassion for presidential losers – call it the Bob Dole Pepsi Commercial effect – but it doesn’t actually mean anything, and no one should mistake regret for support. But perhaps the idea is classic Costanza: that Republican instincts have proven so bad in 2008 and 2012, that they need to adopt a new approach, pursuing the opposite of whatever their instincts lead them to believe. Think that the recipe for beating a wealthy insulated personally awkward one percent blue state technocrat is running an inspiring conservative populist who can expand the map? Nah, it’s time to try the opposite! This time, we swear it’ll work.
Of course, this could serve as a handy test of whether the assumptions about our two party system can endure in the modern era. In the old days, parties died. I wonder sometimes if that could happen again.
Update: Jonathan Last has more.