The will-he-or-won't-he chatter over a possible Mitt Romney run for the White House in 2016 has reached a fever pitch, and yet we still don't know precisely if the 2012 Republican nominee will actually be getting into the race for a third straight time. Ever since Mitt confided to his friends and mega-donors in a fancy New York apartment a little over a week ago that he is "seriously considering" a third bid for the presidency, Romney 3.0 is all anyone is talking about.
It's as if the Republican Party, after a brutal 2012 defeat by President Barack Obama, is desperately trying to find someone, anyone, that could launch a hard challenge against the presumptive Democratic nominee for 2016, Hillary Clinton. But, it's not as if Romney is the only person out there that could run a sustained campaign for the country's highest office. If Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, and Ted Cruz were the only alternatives, then you could certainly understand establishment Republicans getting on the Romney wagon again. Yet, unlike the embarrassingly thin slate of Republican candidates in 2012 -- a slate that got me, a centrist Republican, mulling over whether I should switch my voter identification and become an independent -- the list for 2016 is both impressive and exciting. Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and Rand Paul should all be taken seriously as contenders for the Republican nomination. Why, after devoting five straight years campaigning for president between 2007 through 2012, would Mitt Romney want to mess with all of these fresh faces (or in the case of Bush, a face that has been out of politics for over eight years)?
Mitt's fans, donors, and advisers are crossing their fingers and hoping that he has the energy and stamina to mount a third presidential campaign, just like the great Ronald Reagan did in 1968, 1976, and 1980 (are you tired of that analogy yet?). But outside of that circle, there doesn't appear to be much appetite or excitement for another Romney try. After all, what's exciting about the same person running again, again, and again for president?
A lot conservative columnists, media types, and influential voices in the Republican establishment want Romney to stay out this time. If this is news to you, then you've either been living under a rock or have grown so disillusioned with the state of American politics that you simply don't care which dude with a big ego wants the top job in America.
Here are some the bombs that conservative-types have thrown at Romney since he intimated that 2016 may finally be the year where he makes his mark:
George Will in The Washington Post:
"The nation was mired in a disappointing recovery, upward mobility had stalled and the incumbent president's signature achievement was unpopular and becoming more so. Barack Obama, far from being a formidable politician, was between the seismic repudiations of 2010 and 2014. Running against Romney, Obama became the first president to win a second term with smaller percentages of both the popular and electoral votes. He got 3.6 million fewer votes and a lower percentage of the electoral vote. Yet Romney lost all but one (North Carolina) of the 10 battleground states. He narrowly lost Florida, Virginia and Ohio, but even if he had carried all three, Obama still would have won with 272 electoral votes.
If it seemed likely that the Republican field of candidates for 2016 would be unimpressive, this would provide a rationale for Romney redux. But markets work, and the U.S. electoral system is a reasonably well-functioning political market, with low barriers to entry for new products."
Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal:
"This is a moment in history that demands superior political gifts from one who would govern. Mitt Romney does not have them. He never did. He's good at life and good at business and good at faith. He is politically clunky, always was and always will be. His clunkiness is seen in the way he leaked his interest in running: to mega-millionaires and billionaires in New York. 'Tell your friends.'"
Rupert Murdock, Executive Chairman of News Corps (includes WSJ and the New York Post):
"I rather agree with the [Wall Street] Journal this morning, which sort of lacerated Romney. He had his chance, he mishandled it, you know? I thought Romney was a terrible candidate."
The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board:
"The GOP should have a strong chance in 2016, after two Democratic terms of trying to take the country sharply to the left. Democrats are already preparing to run a campaign focused on economic populism and government favors to the middle class. With his instinctive belief that "47%" of America would never vote for him, and his inability to defend his Bain record, Mr. Romney would be the ideal foil for such a campaign.
Republicans are likely to have a far better field in 2016, so voters won't lack for plausible Presidents. It's hard to see what advantages Mr. Romney brings that the many potential first-time candidates who have succeeded as governors do not."
Ross Douthat in The New York Times:
"What would Romney re-redux offer? Nothing obvious: Romney's a decade removed from elected office, with nothing on his résumé since except the permanent campaign. As a white, superrich, late-60-something male, he's the walking embodiment of his party's image problems. He won the last nominating contest because on the debate stage he looked like Aragorn son of Arathorn among a collection of dwarves and hobbits (plus Jon Huntsman's elf lord and Ron Paul's Gollum). Unless meteors strike several state capitols and the United States Senate, that won't be true this time.
So a third Romney run will almost certainly be a blind alley for a man who should be thinking of a better way to serve his country and his fellow man."
Bill Kristol on MSNBC's Morning Joe:
"As a Republican and a conservative I find it a little depressing that the guys getting all the publicity now are Mitt and Jeb...I feel like we're watching a presidential primary from four or eight years ago."
Romney is no stranger to criticism. Running twice for governor of Massachusetts and twice for president will thicken the skin and focus the mind on the bigger picture: running and winning. But it's a different type of criticism when the grumblings and head scratching is coming from the very same people that were supporters only two and a half years ago.
A lot of this will be null and void on Mitt Romney's internal thinking about the 2016 contest. If Mitt wants to enter the race as a candidate, he will enter the race and try his hardest to pull a Reagan. Yet if he does, humility is in order.