Got some spicy hot 2016 speculation for you today, everyone! As you might recall, not long after this great and glorious new year dawned, the news came that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was contemplating whether he might gear up to start thinking about another presidential run. It was enough to get everyone in the political media reinvested in Romney's prospects. Let's call this "Mitt Romney's Pledge."
You might also remember that about a fortnight later, Romney decided that he would not, in fact, run for president. I wondered if maybe the whole thing was a fun prank that Romney wanted to play on the media. But let's refer to this as "Mitt Romney's Turn." This will make sense in a minute or two.
So! It sure looked like the notion that Romney might take another crack at this was well and surely put to bed. But this week, one man started having funny feelings about Romney again. Feelings he just couldn't shake. He subsequently woke from a fitful sleep with the need to recount the tintinnabulations of alarm arising in his gut in a piece called, "Romney hosting GOP summit, planning nomination coup?" Who do the coup spew that you eschew? The Hill columnist Brent Budowsky, that's who.
What's the deal, here? Well, as Budowsky notes, this weekend, Romney will be hosting his third annual "E2 Summit." There, Romney will have a chance to meet with "at least six Republican 2016 hopefuls" seeking to "win the favor of the 2012 nominee." It's going to be a combination of the Aspen Ideas Festival, a billionaire donor meeting, and "summer camp." Presumably, all that will happen is that Romney will have the chance to meet with prospective candidates, kick their tires, and maybe do some karaoke or something. But what if this summit's purpose is to seed the earth for Romney to bloom anew? That's where Budowsky is at:
It just so happens that if political events were to take certain turns, and the 2012 GOP nominee for president makes a surprise bid for the 2016 nomination, or more likely if a divided and gridlocked GOP turns to Romney as a compromise candidate and statesman, the participants in the Romney summit could raise a billion dollars overnight to support another Romney presidential candidacy, and the political organizers attending the event could organize a full-blown presidential campaign within days, if not hours!
You know ... let's just run with this.
Budowsky, reminding everyone that he had previously "warned" that Romney's withdrawal from the race might be "part of a brilliantly clever plan" for him to get back into the race later, provided that the aforementioned "turns" had occurred. Among those turns:
1. "Republicans would have to face a list of candidates so long and unwieldy that the GOP debates shape up as a farce that would diminish all candidates by comparison to Romney, and the mathematics would have to be such that a group of bunched candidates receiving 10 to 20 percent of the vote leads to pre-convention gridlock."
2. Jeb Bush would have to "fall flat and lose the inevitability."
3. "Any potential highly electable GOP opponent has to fall by the wayside to clear the way." Budowsky believes this is happening to Marco Rubio, who's faced some rough trade in the press lately.
Now, all of that might inspire some corresponding questions:
1. If the field is so big and unwieldy that the debates are terrible and everyone involved ends up looking "diminished," how does adding another candidate, making the field even bigger and more unwieldy, improve things?
2. Isn't the reason Jeb Bush isn't exactly catching fire because he's perceived by the GOP base as a figure from the past, and a too-moderate one at that? You know ... like Mitt Romney?
3. Is Marco Rubio the only "highly electable GOP opponent?" And has Marco Rubio been hurt by that spate of New York Times articles?
[ANSWER KEY: 1. "It doesn't." 2. "Yes" and "yes." 3. "No," and "no."]
But let's leave all that aside and just start using your imagination. Let's say that you are Mitt Romney. That is, you are an American celebrity with a lot of money, few worries, and a loving and tight-knit family you enjoy being around. Now let's also say that you have a bunch of friends who "could raise a billion dollars overnight." Is "run for president a third time" what you'd do what those opportunities? Or would you do "almost anything else in the world." I mean, I would hook the Catoctin Creek Distillery up to my indoor plumbing if it were me in this scenario.
Still: There is one set of circumstances in which I think Mitt Romney should contemplate running again. Should what Budowsky suggests come to pass -- a crowded primary field spends months failing to determine a nominee, leaving the GOP in a state of panic and frustration -- there is a possibility, slim though it may be, that party elites will come to Romney, on bended knee, and ask him to jump into the race.
I hope he considers it. I hope he remembers how, long after he'd staked out a front-runner position in 2012, those same party elites kept begging many of the candidates running today to jump into that race, and snatch Romney's chain. And then I hope he tells them, "No."
And that would be "Mitt Romney's Prestige."
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