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“It’s Not Him, Republicans, It’s You”: Mitt Romney Isn’t Running, But His Specter Still Haunts The GOP

I’ll have to admit that I’m a bit surprised Mitt Romney decided not to run for president, given the man’s almost superhuman optimism and persistence. But according to various reports, the torrent of criticism Romney received when he made it clear he was considering a run had a real impact on his final decision, even though in his statement he talked about his faith in “one of our next generation of Republican leaders” (take that, Jeb!) to win back the White House.

The Republican consensus was obviously that Romney represented failure, and they need something different if they are to win in 2016. But maybe Mitt Romney isn’t the problem. It’s not him, Republicans. It’s you.

Nobody would ever claim Romney was anything like a perfect candidate. His background as a private equity titan was particularly fertile ground for Democratic attacks painting him as the representative of the economic elite, and he had a colorful way of reinforcing that impression again and again, particularly with the “47 percent” remark.

But I actually think that if he had decided to run, he would have had a better chance than anyone of getting the Republican nomination. Every GOP primary campaign for the last half-century has begun with an obvious front-runner, and every one of those early front-runners got the nomination. Romney would have been that front-runner, as reluctant as many in the party were about his candidacy. In recent GOP races, the winner hasn’t been the one who defeated his opponents, just the one who outlasted them, as one chucklehead after another became the flavor of the month and then self-immolated (remember when Herman Cain led the primary polls in 2012?). Romney could certainly have stuck around until the end.

But now the 2016 race is truly a free-for-all, with no obvious leader. And if the only lesson Republicans take from 2012 is not to nominate a CEO (sorry, Carly Fiorina), they’ll make the same mistakes all over again.

Consider that “47 percent” remark. It made for a vivid illustration of arguments Democrats were already making, but Mitt Romney was hardly the first Republican to say it. The basic idea underlying it had been repeated endlessly on conservative talk radio and by other Republican politicians for years. If it hadn’t been caught on tape, the attacks from Democrats would have been the same, and the outcome would have been the same. Another example: when Republicans exploded with joy after Barack Obama’s “you didn’t build that” remark, Romney didn’t have to convince them to make it a huge issue; they all thought it would be a silver bullet that would take the president down, and they were all flummoxed when it didn’t. They couldn’t imagine that voters wouldn’t punish Obama for an (alleged) criticism of business owners, because they forgot that most Americans work for somebody else.

The prevailing attitude in GOP circles is that Romney failed because he was the wrong messenger. Yet almost every contender is preparing to offer voters the same policy agenda that Romney did. They may be saying now that they’ll talk about wage stagnation and inequality, but when you ask them what they’re going to do about it, their answer is the same as it has always been: cut taxes and cut regulation. It’s going to be awfully hard to convince voters that they’ve had a real change of heart. And anyone who deviates from Republican orthodoxy is already finding themselves on the defensive (as Jeb Bush is for his less-than-total enthusiasm for deportations).

It isn’t surprising that the party’s diagnosis of what went wrong in the last couple of elections won’t extend to the policies they’re offering the public; those positions are rooted in sincere ideological beliefs, and changing them would be hard. But even without Mitt Romney in the race, it looks like Republicans are going to offer a program of Romneyism. They could find themselves facing voters at a time when the economy is doing well overall, and they’re particularly ill-suited to address the structural problems that keep people anxious — two strikes against them. A fresh face is unlikely to solve that problem.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; The Plum Line, The Washington Post, January 30, 2015

February 1, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Mitt Romney, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“In The Same Situation”: Mitt Romney Isn’t Running In 2016. Now What?

Three weeks after throwing the early competition for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination into chaos by announcing that he was “seriously considering” joining the race, Mitt Romney announced on Friday morning that he would not launch a third bid for the White House.

“After putting considerable thought into making another run for president, I’ve decided it is best to give other leaders in the party the opportunity to become our next nominee,” Romney told a group of staffers and supporters.

Romney’s decision was probably a good one; although he led most of his Republican rivals in the polls, that advantage was largely built on name recognition. The vulnerabilities that sank him in the 2012 general election still exist, and the conservatives who will play an outsized role in picking the 2016 nominee still distrust him. Furthermore, Romney’s plan to rebrand himself as an anti-poverty warrior would have been tough to buy, due to his longstanding reputation for flip-flopping (and his flat acknowledgement in 2012 that “I’m not concerned about the very poor”).

There are some obvious winners in the wake of his decision: Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, New Jersey governor Chris Christie, and Wisconsin governor Scott Walker will now be able to compete for the moderate-leaning, pro-business Republicans who have long favored Romney. The former Massachusetts’ governor’s staffers and donor base will now be up for grabs as well.

But Republicans still find themselves in the same situation they were in before Romney ever floated a third run: with a crowded, unsettled field.

A Public Policy Polling survey released Friday illustrates the tumultuous state of the race. It polled the Republican field both with and without Romney, and found that his staying on the sidelines leaves the GOP in a free-for-all fight for the nomination. With Romney’s supporters reallocated to their second choices, Bush leads the field with 21 percent. Former surgeon-turned-Tea Party activist Ben Carson trails with 16 percent, followed by Walker at 14 percent, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee at 12 percent, and Texas senator Ted Cruz at 10 percent.

In other words, it’s anyone’s game.

Republicans do have some incentive to figure things out sooner rather than later, however. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton appears unlikely to face a serious primary challenge, leaving her free to coast and raise money as the Republicans batter each other in their primary contests. While there’s a compelling case to be made that tough primaries make stronger candidates, that’s a scenario that Republicans would still clearly rather avoid.

 

By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, January 30, 2015

January 31, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, GOP Presidential Candidates, Mitt Romney | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“They’re All Cronies”: Conservatives In Iowa Resist Bush, Romney

Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney face big trouble in Iowa — influential conservatives have had enough of them.

Disdain for the party’s center-right powerhouses, who are both considering seeking the 2016 Republican presidential nominations, could have implications well beyond the nation’s first caucus state.

Iowa conservatives mirror the views of like-minded activists nationwide, and having the party’s vocal right wing blasting away could stagger either candidate throughout 2016. And it’s uncertain that conservatives would actively work in a general election for Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, or Bush, the former Florida governor.

“This could be a big problem,” said Craig Robinson, editor-in-chief of theIowaRepublican.com, a partisan web site.

With its town-hall-like precinct caucuses the first test of the nomination next winter, Iowa usually winnows the field of a party’s nomination contest and previews campaign styles and weaknesses. Just ask the Romneys and Bushes. The families have had a candidate in five competitive caucuses since 1980, and in all but one instance, the outcome foreshadowed the future.

George H. W. Bush was a barely-known former CIA director in 1980 when he stunned the political world by topping Ronald Reagan. Though Reagan would win the nomination, Bush showed enough strength to become Reagan’s running mate.

Bush faltered in Iowa in 1988 when he ran for the nomination a second time, this time as the sitting vice president, finishing third behind Kansas neighbor Bob Dole and evangelist Pat Robertson. The caucus prodded Bush to run a tougher campaign, and he went on to win the nomination and the White House.

In 2000, his son cemented his standing as the candidate to beat with a big victory over magazine editor Steve Forbes.

Romney finished second in 2008 and 2012, both times losing to Christian right favorites. It was a signal that that bloc was leery of Romney’s record.

Today, memories of Romney’s previous efforts dog him. “He’s a proven loser,” said John Eggen, a Des Moines air conditioning and heating contractor.

Another campaign, he said, would mean more debate over the 2006 Massachusetts health care law that Romney approved when governor. It’s considered the model for the 2010 federal health care law that Republicans hate.

Bush is also yesterday’s candidate, said Sabrina Graves, a stay-at-home mother from Blue Grass. Bush’s support for Common Core educational standards, which many conservatives view as big government reaching too far into local education, also gets slammed.

“I don’t know what is worse, nominating someone merely because he’s been nominated twice before or nominating a liberal supporter of Common Core because he has a familiar name,” said former New Hampshire House Speaker Bill O’Brien, who spoke at a daylong conservative forum in Iowa Saturday featuring a long list of potential presidential candidates.

Romney and Bush did not attend. Bush, who last week spoke at length with the Iowa Republican chairman and hinted at a White House bid, cited a scheduling conflict. A spokesman for Romney did not respond to a request for comment.

Some of Saturday’s loudest cheers came when businessman Donald Trump fired away. “It can’t be Mitt because Mitt ran and failed,” Trump said, adding “the last thing we need is another Bush.”

The audience was largely hardcore conservatives, the crowd that boosted former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, also a Baptist preacher, in 2008 and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, a hero of the Christian right, four years later. Both won the Iowa caucus.

They watched Romney market himself as a fierce conservative in 2012, but never quite bought it. Saturday, they saw New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, another moderate favorite, argue that he’s a true conservative.

“If the values I’m fighting for every day in New Jersey and all across this country are not consistent with your values, then why would I keep coming back? I wouldn’t,” he said. Reaction was spotty.

The conservatives say they’ve had enough of nominees with appeal to independent and more moderate voters.

“We are tired of being told who our candidates should be,” said Donna Robinson, a Marengo saleswoman. “They say they’re conservative, then they run to the middle.”

The right wants new faces and new ideas. They were particularly impressed Saturday with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, 47, and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, 44.

“He has a proven record and he’s young,” Eggen said of Walker.

They also like people without lengthy political resumes. That’s why retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former business executive Carly Fiorina got warm receptions.

“People who have been in and around government and politics for their entire lives may no longer be able to see the truth: our government must be fundamentally reformed,” Fiorina said.

The conservatives loved it. Romney and Bush? “They’re all cronies,” Graves said. “I want someone this time who’s not a politician.”

 

By: David Lightman, The National Memo, January 26, 2015

January 29, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Romney As Republican Comfort Food”: He Talks A Great Donor Game, But Doesn’t Strike The Grassroots As Authentic

It’s way too early to tell who is going to run, who is able to run and who will win from running for president in 2016. But if prognosticators didn’t try to take a stab at it, then those of us in the politics business would be pushing the unemployment rate up another percentage point.

Thus, the latest CBS poll of potential 2016 nominees shows 6 in 10 Republican voters, or 59 percent of that bloc, want to see Romney stump on the presidential campaign trail. Jake Miller at CBS News:

Republicans have a particularly broad field of prospective candidates, and it’s seemingly growing by the day: Just last week, the 2012 GOP nominee, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, told a room of donors in New York City that he’s seriously entertaining a 2016 bid.

Fifty-nine percent of Republicans would like to see Romney jump into the 2016 race, while only 26 percent believe he should stay out, according to the CBS News poll.

Fifty percent of Republicans would like to see former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on the campaign trail as well, while 27 percent disagree. If both Romney and Bush run, analysts expect them to wage a competitive battle for the allegiance of the Republican establishment.

A lot of observers are scratching their collective heads on Romney’s sudden phantom rise given his self-inflicting 2012 defeat and his flopped run in the 2008 GOP primary. But there are indications of a raging battle between donors and various wings of party activists: he talks a great donor game, but doesn’t necessarily strike the grassroots folks as authentic – unless you fell in love with the unrecognizably likable Mitt showcased in that post-election Netflix documentary. And, the only thing holding Bush back, at the moment, is both his brand (the last name makes everyone, regardless of political affiliation, queasy) and skepticism over his stances on key issues as they’ve changed over the past decade.

If anything, such an overwhelming response from GOP voters should not assume Romney is a great candidate. It just says Republicans are comfortable with going with what they know; even Bush with 50 percent is folks simply going with the brand they know as opposed to the truly qualified brand at the moment. The other presumptives will just have to work harder at name ID.

 

By: Charles Ellison, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, January 19, 2015

January 20, 2015 Posted by | Election 2016, GOP Presidential Candidates, Mitt Romney | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Mitt Flips On The Very Poor”: Is Romney The Guy Republicans Want Talking About Poverty?

Nearly three years after he famously said he was “not concerned about the very poor,” former presidential nominee Mitt Romney told Republicans in a speech Friday night the party must focus on helping “lift people out of poverty.”

Welcome to Mitt 3.0: The Mitt who cares.

His comments on the very poor—not to mention the 47 percent—may have played a major role in his 2012 loss, but don’t tell that to Romney. The issue is now among the hottest debates in politics—and he seems determined to be part of that conversation.

Of the three topics the Romney stressed in his brief address to the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting—during which he also confirmed he was thinking about a third campaign for president—two had to do with the less fortunate.

“First, we have to make the world safer,” Romney said. “Second, we have to make sure and provide opportunity for all Americans regardless of the neighborhood they live in. And finally, we have to lift people out of poverty. If we communicate those three things effectively, the American people are going to be with us—be with our nominee and with our candidates across the country.”

But why the change of tone?

Over the past three years, the issue has changed in ways that favor a more progressive approach. The poverty rate has actually gone down since Mitt 2.0—the economy fixer—lost the race in 2012.

According to U.S. Census Bureau data, the official poverty rate went from 15 percent in 2012 to 14.5 percent in 2013. The last time the poverty rate dipped was in 2006. That’s not to say things have gotten markedly better, the number of people in poverty—45.3 million—has remained statistically the same.

This problem is hardly a new issue. The poverty rate was on the rise in 2007, when Romney first ran for president as Mitt 1.0—the Conservative. But even though it spiked from 12.5 percent in 2007 to 13.2 percent in 2008, only then-Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) chose to make the issue a centerpiece of his campaign.

But one thing that has changed is public opinion on the issue. Recent polling shows a more compassionate country when it comes to the poor. A June 2014 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed fewer people blamed the poor for their financial situation. When asked “which is the bigger cause of poverty today?”, 46 percent of those polled attributed poverty to “circumstances beyond people’s control” as opposed to 44 percent who blamed “people not doing enough.” In 1995, 60 percent blamed “people not doing enough” for their poverty, while 30 percent blamed “circumstances beyond people’s control.”

Back in 2012, it wasn’t as if the Romney campaign completely ignored the poor—poverty was a key issue for his then-running mate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). Romney, himself, routinely talked of the rising number of people on food stamps and other government programs as evidence President Obama’s economic policies weren’t working.

But it was what he said behind closed-doors that caused any poverty message he tried to ring hollow. His campaign was never able to shake his comments about the 47 percent of Americans who don’t pay income tax made during a Florida fundraiser.

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them,” Romney told a group of donors during a closed door meeting. “These are people who pay no income tax. … My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

When a recording of his remarks leaked, it became a public relations disaster for Romney, solidifying the image of him as an out of touch millionaire in the minds of voters. Even after he lost the 2012 race, Romney doubled down during a call with donors, blaming the Obama administration for giving special interest groups—like African Americans, Hispanics and young people—“gifts” to get their vote, according to the New York Times.

“In each case, they were very generous in what they gave to those groups,” Romney said, according to the Times.

He blamed the so-called gifts for overshadowing his campaign about “big issues for the whole country: military strategy, foreign policy, a strong economy, creating jobs and so forth.”

With wages stuck in neutral for many, poverty and income inequality will likely be a major issue of the 2016 campaign. But Republicans have to think—is Mitt the guy they want talking about it?

 

By: Jackie Kucinich, The Daily Beast, January 19, 2015

January 20, 2015 Posted by | Mitt Romney, Poor and Low Income, Poverty | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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