Politically Uncorrected: A Romney Redux?

Mitt-Romney-loresIs Mitt Romney becoming the once and future GOP nominee for president? Six months ago such a question might have been met with a polite smile or an elevated eyebrow.

But no longer!

President Obama’s low approval ratings combined with a snap back in Romney’s own popularity increasingly is driving speculation that the former Massachusetts Republican governor might try it one more time.

Several new polls show Romney besting Obama in a hypothetical rematch – one by almost 10 points. That’s quite a bump for someone who lost the actual 2012 election by four points in the popular vote while being crushed 332 to 206 in the Electoral College.

Romney’s new popularity has placed him in demand as a GOP surrogate traveling to 2014 key battleground states as diverse as North Carolina, Colorado and Virginia. Fall trips to presidential tripwire states like Iowa and New Hampshire are planned.

The once pallid, punch-less loser of 2012 has become the new bright and vigorous shining star of 2014 carrying his party’s hopes and its message to a weary electorate looking for a champion. Still, it isn’t a long stretch to speculate that Romney, who has already run for president twice, could ever hope to win another nomination.

Is this Romney revival likely to fade rapidly if he actually became a candidate?  Three shots at the presidency might be two too many for most voters.

Maybe not!

The prospect of a former major party nominee losing the presidency but coming back nevertheless to win a second nomination is not a familiar concept to most voters. That’s because neither major party has renominated a losing presidential candidate since 1968, almost a half century ago when Richard Nixon won after not only losing his presidential bid to John F. Kennedy in 1960, but also his bid for governor of California in 1962.

The median American voter, now about 37 years old, has never had a chance to vote for a losing major party nominee a second time because the average American voter wasn’t alive the last time it was possible to do so.

But that doesn’t mean it has never happened. In fact, the 50-year gap of no second nominations for losing presidential candidates is something of an historical aberration. Indeed, across the full two centuries plus of American national government eight men have been renominated by a major party at least once after losing their initial bid for the presidency: Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, William Henry Harrison,  Henry Clay, William Jennings Bryan, Thomas Dewey, Adlai Stevenson, and Nixon. More surprisingly perhaps, two of these eight, William Jennings Bryan and Henry Clay were nominated three times.

And a final historical statistic the growing horde of Romney backers will find tantalizing: of the eight candidates renominated by a major party, four of them, or fully 50 percent, won the presidency on their second try – Jefferson, Jackson, Harrison, and Nixon. (The percentage of former presidential losers that became winners actually increases, if the strange case of Grover Cleveland is included. Cleveland was nominated three times, winning twice, but not consecutively, and losing once.)

But the possibility that Romney could be nominated again in 2016 rests on more than history. He is arguably the leading figure in a party that is bereft of leading figures and far from a consensus on whom its 2016 candidate should be.

Then, too, renominating Romney would blessedly move the GOP away from its recent dubious practice that some irreverently call the “Kiwanis club model” — in which the “next in line” in the previous nomination battle is nominated. Number two in 2012 was Rick Santorum, one of the more polarizing figures in the Republican Party.

Finally, as the GOP seems to lurch ever closer to becoming a regional party in national elections, Romney stands as one of a tiny few figures of national significance, bearing, and gravitas capable, perhaps, of leading the party to victory.

Romney might not excite the “base” anymore in 2016 than he did in 2012. But it might well turn out that failing to excite the base is the one.

8 Responses

  1. Not sure why a poll with him against the current unpopular president even matters since Obama can’t run again. Did they match him up versus Hilary or any other Democratic candidate? Was Rand Paul included in the mix? The youth vote may very well go to a more libertarian candidate this time.

  2. PS — The Lizard doesn’t have editors either, and spell check that overworks itself.

  3. Oh, please. When any “news article” punctuates the second paragraph with an explanation point, how serious can anyone take this. (Are there any actual editors left at PoliticsPA?) If Romney is the anointed one, it’s because everybody else Republicans want to field are knuckle draggers, have the last name of Bush, or look at home in a KKK hood.

  4. It’s “preordained” to be the first LDS President of the United States. 2012 just wasn’t the year. And if not 2016 then perhaps 2020 or 2024 or 2028 or 2032 or 2036 or 2040…

    He is the cream of the clown car crop, so it isn’t like they have much else to run that sane people might vote for who can survive the psycho-bagger of the week primary. As uncharismatic and unprincipled as he was he still managed 47% of the vote. He can go about America measuring all the trees to tell us which locale has the perfect height of shrubbery.

    Maybe run with Bachmann to keep the insane mental defective base on board this time around.

  5. No way. Had his chance. Was too timid. Watch the Netflix Romney movie. Even after he blew Obama’s doors off in the first debate he was too afraid to go for the jugular. If he didn’t let Candy Crowley spring to Obama’s defense during the town hall debate he may very well be President. Didn’t have the guts to call her out.

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