Mitt Romney has said he won't run for president again
But that hasn't tamped down 2016 speculation
For every reason he would run, there are other reasons he won't
Let’s get the news out of the way to begin with. There isn’t any news on whether Mitt Romney is going to run for president again. That isn’t to say there aren’t those who want him to run. CNN’s Gloria Borger reports advisers are rooting for him to consider it. He’s not sold on the idea.
Regardless of what goes on behind closed doors, what we do know for sure is he has said he won’t do it. So why does he keep creeping his way into headlines and onto campaign stages? He’s 67, just a year older than Hillary Clinton, and he appears to continue to be in great shape. Both Romney and Clinton would be about the same age as Ronald Reagan was when he was first inaugurated. Age probably isn’t an issue.
Will Romney take the plunge again?
So herewith, three reasons Mitt Romney is going to run for president:
1. He’s doing interviews with the New York Times: In a new profile published this week in the New York Times Magazine, Romney is asked about running for president again. He makes a joke about a scene in the movie “Dumb and Dumber” when Jim Carrey, asking a woman if she’s interested in him, is told his chances are 1 in a million. “So there’s a chance?” Carrey’s character says in the movie. “There’s a chance,” Romney told the New York Times, apparently while doing a Jim Carrey impression. But he didn’t sound 1 in a million dismissive when he added: “We’ve got a lot of people looking at the race. We’ll see what happens.” This latest version of “no” is a lot different than the flatter, more definitive “nos” he was giving not too long ago. The Washington Post examined all the different ways Romney has said “No” and discovered a softening of the resolve.
2. He won’t go away: Romney isn’t just on the campaign trail for Republicans in 2014, he’s on the campaign trail with regularity. He’s helping candidates large and small and he’s helping the party raise money. He’s traveling to Florida and New Jersey and he’s helping out Scott Brown in New Hampshire. These are not the activities of a man who is done with public life. This is a man who is still in demand from his party and still wants to contribute. But as Julie Pace of the Associated Press said on CNN’s “New Day” Tuesday, it’s not clear if he’s in so demand by Republicans because he is their top star or because no one has stepped into the void in a party with no clear leader.
3. He was right: Okay, whether he was actually right or not is and will remain the matter of some dispute, just like the campaign itself. But in the midst of a tough second term for President Barack Obama, Romney can point to issues as varied as terror, Detroit and tensions with Russia and argue that what he said on the campaign trail back in 2012 now seems prescient.
But for every reason Romney would run, there is an equally convincing reason he won’t. Here are four:
1. The 47% is still there: It was the turning point in the presidential campaign when Romney spoke the truth that about 47% of Americans were going to vote against him no matter what. Who knows if the exact number is still 47%, but it is about half the country. There’s no doubt Americans have some buyer’s remorse with Obama in his second term. A CNN/ORC poll in July found that 53% of Americans would support Mitt Romney against Obama in a hypothetical match-up. Of course, Obama can’t run again. In that same poll, 55% would have supported Clinton over 42% for Romney. Her numbers have settled since then, but the point remains. Romney looks good to Americans in hindsight. He might look different if he actually started running again.
2. Running for president is hard: It’s really hard to give up your life and spend most of your time flying across the country, sleeping in hotels and fund-raising. The rest of the time you spend giving speeches and glad-handing. The Netflix documentary “Mitt,” released earlier this year, did a good job of documenting that toll. You could see it on the exhausted face of his wife, Ann, and on the faces of his children. We’re not privy to private Romney family discussions, but you’ve got to wonder if he would want to start up the family machine again.
3. He’s run and lost twice already: In that Netflix documentary, Romney put it well. “I have looked at what happens to anybody in this country who loses as the nominee of their party,” he says. “They become a loser for life” and are “brutalized” by the public. Romney has now lived that reality. A third run would be almost unprecedented. As the son of a man who ran for president and having now done it twice himself, Romney must be keenly aware of legacy. A win would instantly erase all stigma from his previous losses. A third straight loss would make his name synonymous with defeat.
4. He’d have a primary: Romney lost the crowded 2008 primary and won the crowded primary in 2012. There’s no question he’d have to win another crowded primary in 2016. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul are all seriously considering runs. Each of those men has a compelling campaign story. Romney would have to convince Americans to choose him over one of these new guys who hasn’t had a chance yet. That could end up being a tough argument to make.