Romney’s third run for the presidency bears little resemblance to The Gipper’s three.
In case you missed it Mitt Romney is running for president, yet again.
This is a pretty strange choice for the Mittster, after all no candidate that’s lost the general election has won their party’s nomination again since the modern nomination system emerged in the 1972 presidential cycle. * So what’s Romney thinking?
Well according to Team Mitt, Romney is Ronald Reagan reborn:
“If that’s the case, then Ronald Reagan never would have become president,” said Eric Fehrnstrom, Mr. Romney’s longtime spokesman. “Reagan ran three times. Mitt learns from experience. If he does run, he will run his strongest campaign yet.”
(Mr. Reagan failed to win the Republican nomination in 1968 and 1976 before being elected president in 1980.)
Well that certainly is an interesting take, unfortunately it’s a pretty silly comparison as Jonathan Bernstein aptly pointed out:
Between Reagan’s first (1968) and second (1976) presidential runs, he went from being an inexperienced governor who had given an impressive speech for Barry Goldwater in 1964 to being a successful two-term governor who continued to consolidate his position as leader of the conservative movement. Then, in the run-up to his third try in 1980, Reagan remained the clear conservative leader. A real, influential leader: His attack on the Panama Canal treaties, for example, made opposition to them the standard conservative position.
In other words, Reagan didn’t just get better at running for president. He was a much more impressive politician with far more accomplishments by 1980 than he had been in 1968.
Romney? Not so much.
He first ran for president as a successful one-term governor, although he had to repudiate much of what he had done when he moved to the national stage. He ran for president a second time as a successful one-term governor. He is now running for president yet again as … a successful one-term governor.
The problem here for Romney is one of perception among Republican party actors. Since he was thoroughly trounced in 2012, why would the Republicans believe that he would necessarily do any better in 2016? When picking a nominee a party is basically looking for two major things: someone one they can trust to stay true to their agenda, and someone capable of winning. The fact that Romney lost in 2012 doesn’t necessarily mean that he can’t win in 2016, a hypothetical Romney nominee could easily beat Hillary if the economy went back into recession for example. But party actors don’t really think that way, Romney proved he is a bad politician in many eyes of many Republicans when he lost to that incompetent socialist Obama who spent four years ruining the country.
Simply put Romney’s big chance was in 2012 and he came up short. All the invocation of Reagan in the world won’t change that.
*Sure Nixon came back to win in 1968, but the election of 1960 was for all practical purposes a tie. This allowed Republicans to come to believe (incorrectly) that Kennedy stole the election, thus preventing Nixon from being seen as a loser by many Republican party actors eight years later.
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Photo by Jacquelyn Martin/AP