Who is pushing Mitt Romney to run for president again in 2016?
Somebody is, and it’s probably not a Romney family member. If it were, they’d know more what Mitt himself is thinking. As it is we’re getting a steady drip of stories that say things along the line of “the door’s not closed, he’s keeping a close eye on the field and his powder dry.” Or some other mash-up of journalist phrases.
The latest in this series is the highest-quality Romney speculation yet. Byron York in the Washington Examiner today writes that the losing GOP candidate last time around is “carefully weighing the pluses and minuses of another run.”
The conventional assumption that former Governor Romney will simply fade away into private life is wrong, writes the well-connected Mr. York. Romney’s circle of fundraisers, political advisors, and aides remain in touch and “are eager for him to run,” according to this story.
One key is Jeb Bush. If Bush runs, Romney won’t. Also, unnamed “loyalists” expect that if he decides on another campaign, Romney will replace his two top strategists, Stuart Stevens and Russ Scriefer, writes York.
“Who would take their place is an open question,” writes York.
Hmmm. Wonder if the person or persons who leaked that are hoping for that lucrative spot themselves?
As we noted, York’s stuff is respected in Washington for its accurate details, so this Romney redux post produced extensive response.
Some right-leaning pundits remain open to Romney 2016, seeing him as a respected elder who knows how a campaign works and has been so thoroughly examined in the media that there would be no more surprises.
“I don’t know that he’d be the worst candidate in the world this time around,” writes Jonathan Last, senior writer at The Weekly Standard, on his personal blog.
Others think he might be. At the conservative National Review, Ramesh Ponnuru today linked to a post he wrote in August during another burst of Mitt-mania.
“Whatever the reasons for renewed interest in Romney, Republicans would be well advised to move on,” Ponnuru wrote at the time.
So who’s behind this? That’s what we think is the obvious question. Right now it’s the pre-voting invisible presidential primary season. Candidates are running to see where they stand vis-à-vis competitors for their respective party nominations. Who’s trying to throw Mitt into the mix?
There’s a chance the leaks come from Romney himself or a family member, but as we said, we think that chance is small. The proposed course would be more definitive. The alleged decision-making process would be described with more emotion, as if Romney was wrestling with his conscience as to what to do. Which he probably is, if he’s really thinking about 2016.
Most likely, there are aides or consultants trying to lure Romney into the race. They made lots of money off him last time, and as Ben Domenech notes at The Federalist, Romney would be a candidate “whose checks would clear.”
These aides probably also genuinely think Mitt would be a fine president. But lots of folks in Washington do well by doing good, or what they perceive to be good.
Finally, the pro-Romney camp might be GOP establishment types worried that Jeb Bush won’t run, or would lose, and Rand Paul or Ted Cruz might win the nomination.
Some of the candidates Republicans thought would be credible 2016 candidates now appear a bit flawed. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is troubled by Bridgegate and a struggling economy in his home state. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio pushed an immigration bill that alienated the party base, and he has yet to politically recover.
Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin is locked in a tough reelection fight. Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana just . . . doesn’t seem to be lighting the world on fire.
As Jonathan Last points out, it’s possible the 2016 field will end up weaker than anticipated.
“And in that moment, there will be the opportunity for both a fresh face we haven’t looked at before, and for Romney 5.0,” Mr. Last writes today.