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Romney 2016!
September 25th, 2014




Ben Domenech had a great headline in this morning’s Transom: Romney 2016 is real and it is spectacular.” That’s based off the steady drip-drip-drip of pieces over the last eight weeks or so plus Byron York’s piece today. A few thoughts:

* I don’t know whether or not I ever blogged about this (turns out I did, obliquely), but throughout the 2012 cycle my working assumption was that Romney was likely to try again in 2016. When I would tell this to various Galley Friends, they dismissed it as more JVL crazy talk. Hey Kobe . . .

* Do I really for real think this is real? Oh yes. I believe that it will be a very short hop for the Romneys to talk themselves into “America needs me/him now.” And the early 2015 polling will show (a) that he does very well retrospectively against Obama and (b) exceptionally well in the GOP primary field, because of his enormous name ID. That could well be enough to nudge him in.

And if Hillary runs, then one of the big problems he faces–he even flip-flopped on not running for president again!–disappears, too, because she has the exact same problem and the media won’t be able to take after him without making her collateral damage. The Precious must be protected at all times.

Plus, he’ll have the money. I suspect that for the GOP donor class Romney remains the dream candidate. If he gets in, he’ll suck up all of the greenback-oxygen very quickly and will make it hard for other candidates to raise a critical mass of dollars.

Plus-plus: What else is he going to do with himself? For a guy who’s “not a career politician” he spends an awful lot of time running around chasing elected office and aping the sort of thing that career politicians do.

* Here’s the swerve: I don’t know that he’d be the worst candidate in the world this time around. He’s so thoroughly vetted that there is nothing voters could possibly learn about him. At this point he might be the platonic ideal of the generic Republican candidate, with very little energizing upside, but zero hidden downside. Every conceivable angle–pro and con–is baked into his cake. If you believe that’s enough to win in 2016, then maybe he’s okay. At the very least, running him as the nominee in 2016 would be, in it’s own weird way, a radical new electoral proposition coming from Republicans. No one has tried it in the modern era and it becomes difficult to predict how it would work.

* Then there’s the question of the field. People have assumed for two years now that the 2016 GOP field won’t be the 2012 clown show, but rather an all-star line-up of awesome. Christie. Walker. Jindal. Rubio. Ryan. Huckabee, maybe. That’s what it looked like 20 months ago.

Then Rubio pushed all-in with a bad immigration bill. The Bridgegate thing hit Christie. Jindal’s in-state approval rating tanked. Ryan looks to prefer the House. Walker is in the fight of his life for reelection. Jeb Bush inserted himself into the conversation. And Rick Perry began rehabilitating himself.

Now the field looks much more like Perry, Cruz, Rand Paul, and, possibly, Jeb. With Ben Carson making noises about getting in. And suddenly the clown show looks like it might be coming back to town.

I posit that it’s possible the Republican field in 2016 could be much weaker than people anticipate.

If that happens–if Walker loses and Christie can’t recover his mojo and Jindal never takes off and Rubio either decides not to go, or can’t escape his immigration problems and Ryan stands pat and Huckabee chooses to keep making money–then there will be a moment of chaos and panic in Republican circles as the party realizes that the line-up they were expecting isn’t going to appear. And in that moment, there will be the opportunity for both a fresh face we haven’t looked at before, and for Romney 5.0.

Exit question: This is a serious question–not me being snarky. If I told you that you had to have either Jeb or Romney 5.0 as the nominee, who would you pick? And I’ll ask the question two ways: (1) For governing ability and (2) For electability purposes.

I’ll hang up and listen to you off the air.






Romney 2016!
July 8th, 2014




Every once in a while I feel like a piece was written just for me.






The Romneys in Exile
December 2nd, 2012




Nope. I still can’t figure out why voters have never warmed to Mitt Romney. It’s a mystery!

By all accounts, the past month has been most difficult on Romney’s wife, Ann, who friends said believed up until the end that ascending to the White House was their destiny. They said she has been crying in private and trying to get back to riding her horses.






Conservatives for Romney!
October 10th, 2012




(1) Romney says abortion legislation isn’t part of his agenda.”

 “There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda,” the GOP presidential candidate told The Des Moines Register’s editorial board during a meeting today before his campaign rally at a Van Meter farm.

(2) Romney’s overly optimistic tax plan.”

I asked a tax policy expert to crunch the numbers on a typical household with an individual filer and deduction amounts. Consider them an evangelical suburbanite at the $100,000 level who has a mortgage, tithes, and has some annual medical expenses. Here’s what comes back:

“If you make $100,000, have a new $300,000 mortgage @ 4 percent, tithe 15 percent, pay $5,000 in state/local taxes, and have $7,500 in qualified medical expenses, you would pay $12,100 in federal income taxes on AGI of $60,500 w/ deductions of $39,500 (assume 20 percent effective rate). Under the Romney plan, you’d pay $13,280 (new effective rate would be 16 percent on AGI of $83,000), an increase of nearly 10 percent.”

Click your heels together three times and say, “There’s always the SCOTUS.”






Romneycare would have solved that!
August 9th, 2012




People are pretty worked up over the moment yesterday when Andrea Saul responded to the latest Obama ad charging that Bain Capital killed a worker’s wife by saying that Romneycare would have saved the unfortunate woman. I understand why conservatives would be upset about this response, I suppose. But I have two genuine, not smart-alecky, questions:

(1) When is the last time you heard what someone on the Romney campaign was saying and thought, “Geez, that’s pretty sharp. Smart insight. He/She is a pro.”

I’ve followed the Romney operation pretty closely and only two people I’ve come across inside the campaign really impressed me. One of them was shunted out the door in reasonably short order. The other one wasn’t brought on until fairly recently.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t smart, impressive people toiling away for Romney. And it’s not to say that staffwork will win or lose the campaign. (My own belief is that once you cross a certain very low threshold for money and organization, the onus for winning a presidential campaign is really on the candidate. Either they have the vision, the magic, and the environment, or they don’t.)

All that said, it is pretty striking how a guy whose primary credential is his businessman’s ability to master an organization has surrounded himself with so many folks who seem to be more valued for something other than ability.

(2) If Romney wins, what do you think the odds really are that he’ll repeal Obamacare? Not waiver it, or starve it, or alter it–but actually go through the bloody fight of full and final repeal?

I don’t know the answer and I’m open to all sorts of arguments on this. But it strikes me that repealing Obamacare will take, under the best of circumstances, a singular focus and drive on the part of the executive. It will require both enormous rhetorical skill to build public support and political skill to cajole Congress. And, more than anything, the administration will have to be willing to endure a blood-letting from Democrats and the media.

Given all of that, and what we’ve seen from Romney and his campaign, do we really believe that, if elected, he’ll repeal Obamacare? Like I said, I don’t know. I’d like to believe it, as, I’m sure, most conservatives would. Because repealing that law is the single most important task for the next president. If he repeals it, he is a success, whatever else follows.

But if not? The great unmentionable in conservative circles right now is this simple question: Would it be better to have another term of Obama and a last-gasp, hail Mary shot at repeal in 2016 than to win the White House in 2012 only to have a Republican president who doesn’t repeal it?

Like I said, I’m not sure. Probably not, is my guess.






More on Romney and the Wimp
July 30th, 2012




As always, it’s hard to defend Romney. Here’s his response to the stupid Newsweek cover:

“They tried that in George Herbert Walker Bush. He was a pretty great President and anything but,” said Romney in an interview on CBS’s Face the Nation.

George H.W. Bush was “a pretty great president”? Really? I’d like to see Romney’s personal ranking of U.S. presidents because I can’t imagine any reading of U.S. history in which H.W. Bush clocks in as “pretty great.”

Of course, Romney might just be bar-setting for himself down the road I guess.






Is Romney a “wimp”?
July 29th, 2012




I’ve made a habit of arguing that Mitt Romney has plenty of problems as a political commodity, but the notion that he has a “wimp” problem is just ludicrous.

Leave aside the empirical matter of whether or not Romney is a wimp. None of his political liabilities have to do with perceptions of wimpiness. If you wanted to take the worst, darkest view of his record and his persona you might argue that he’s craven, ambitious, mercenary, and grasping. If you took the most sunny view of those same characteristics you could just as easily argue that he’s intelligent, measured, flexible, and focused.

But there is no conceivable reading of Romney where his problem is that he’s a “wimp.”

The only explanation I can think of for this story is that Tina Brown has been stewing over Time’s breastfeeding milf cover for months and was determined to one-up them on the traffic-bait scale.






The Romney Campaign’s Obsession with Tu Quoque
July 17th, 2012




I mentioned earlier the weirdness of Romney defending his decision to not release more of his tax returns by retorting that Obama hasn’t released Fast and Furious documents–which is a strange argument since Romney clearly believes Obama should release more Fast and Furious documents.

Now the Romney campaign has sent out a press release saying, “If Bain is so bad, why did you take $120,000 in campaign cash [from them]?” The gist of Romney’s argument being that Bain gave $120K to Obama and he took the green, so how bad could Bain really be.

Which is fine; it’s a clever argument. Except for one thing–the Romney campaign has been attacking Obama for taking big money donations from fat-cat businesses who (the inference is) profit by gaming the system. Sample Romney press release:

“If you’re a political donor to Barack Obama, you’re going to do fine because you’re going to get a payoff. If you’re a middle class worker, you’re in jeopardy, you’re facing a layoff. ” (7/15)

Which puts Romney in the same place with Bain that he is with his tax returns. Instead of making a coherent argument on his own behalf, the Romney campaign pounds the table and says, Tu quoque. Which traps them, because either Bain is perfectly admirable and all Americans should be proud of the company, or Bain is just another business looking to buy influence so it can profit by gaming the system. (For instance, I don’t know how credible this story is, but here’s an allegation that Bain was taking taxpayer money in New Mexico for the kind of government program most conservatives probably find wasteful and distasteful.)

My suspicion is that over the course of a long campaign, eventually these sorts of rhetorical problems can catch up with a candidate–especially if he’s not a particularly deft and intuitive politician.

The Romney operation must have better answers than tu quoque. If they don’t, then they’re really rolling the dice on the November vote being a pure up-or-down referendum on Obama. Maybe that will work out for them. But that can’t be a high-percentage play.

 






Romney’s Stoppage Time at Bain
July 16th, 2012




Last Friday’s revelation that Mitt Romney was technically (or, “technically”) still CEO of Bain Capital from February 1999 to 2002 probably doesn’t mean much. In the grand scheme of things, the fact that Romney was still listed as being CEO and still signing corporate documents will probably fade in the face of the reality that he was professionally checked out from the gig and not doing much more beyond figurehead duties.

That said, the incident does provide another couple datapoints about Romney.

First, why is February 1999 the line in the sand? Is Romney suggesting that everything Bain did pre-2/99 was hunky-dory but that some of the stuff that came after it might have been problematic? If Bain is an admirable outfit and nothing that it did should give voters pause, then what does it matter to Romney? Shouldn’t he be willing to own everything that the company did even when he was only “technically” the CEO?

More importantly, the manner of Romney’s departure from Bain reminds me of how he got started with the company. Romney had the sweetest deal ever for a risk-taking entrepreneur: The idea for the business was not his. The money for the start-up was not his. If the start-up failed, he was promised that he could have his old job back, at an increased salary. And he was explicitly promised that if the start-up failed, his old company would make up a public excuse absolving him from personal failure. This isn’t a criticism–Romney succeeded and his company did great. It’s just worth remembering that even by the standards of successful millionaire entrepreneurs, Romney’s life has been highly atypical. He managed to wind up in a situation where whether he failed or succeeded, he’d do very, very well for himself.

(If I were cutting ads for Obama, I’d argue that this was synecdoche for the entire Bain business.)

In any event, here Romney is in February 1999 and he’s off to save the Olympics and maybe use that to springboard into politics and it’s a dicey proposition. And yet, Romney’s not working without a net. Because he’s still “technically” CEO of Bain Capital and if things don’t work out . . . well, he’ll be okay.

I don’t mean to make too much of this–at that stage in his career (or any stage, really), Romney was going to be okay no matter what. He was connected and wealthy and didn’t need a CEO fig-leaf to provide him with financial/professional security. But I do wonder what this says about Romney’s inherent approach to risk and how that would translate to the presidency.

Bonus Romney: In defending his decision not to release more of his tax returns, Romney decided to go with this approach:

He said his own campaign was happy to compare itself with Obama’s administration on transparency, citing president’s use of executive privilege to withhold documents related to the botched Fast and Furious program.

Wait–so unless I’m translating this wrong, Romney says he isn’t going to release his tax returns because Obama hasn’t released Fast and Furious documents. And two wrongs make a right. Or something.

 






George Lopez. Mitt Romney. Identity Politics.
July 15th, 2012




George Lopez clearly doesn’t know much about politics in general, or Mitt Romney in particular. Last night he joked (?) that Mitt Romney “ain’t going to get” the Latino vote because he’s “a f–king Latino and he won’t admit it.”

If Romney could credibly claim some significant portion of Mexican heritage for himself, he’d never shut up about it. And the same goes for every other single politician working in America right now. Pols in both parties are dying to cut into the Hispanic vote and catch it before it aligns semi-permananently and, so far, about the only appeal any of them have figured out is identity politics.

What world is Lopez living in where he thinks on-the-make politicians go out of their way to shun identity politics?






In Praise of Mitt Romney
May 15th, 2012




He really lends himself well to Auto-Tuning.

Also, he likes lakes.






Obama. Wilson. Romney.
March 23rd, 2012




Ben Domenech lays the wood in the Transom this morning:

Barack Obama is a Wilsonian. Not in the progressive policy sense, though that argument can certainly be advanced. I mean in method: he is a lecturer. He is best before a crowd, prepped with soaring rhetoric and planned oratory, adopting the role of the inspirational academic, the professor who made everyone love learning as a freshman but who, upon reconsideration, didn’t actually teach you that much. You see the continued faith in this method of politics as extended book tour illustrated in Obama’s response to the near-crisis price of gas: another speaking tour in front of varied photo ops to make the argument that yes, we are drilling, and no, if we drill more it won’t solve anything, and anyway it’s not my fault. http://vlt.tc/7an

It’s a reminder that this White House has more profound faith in a president’s personal ability to advance any cause than any since Wilson himself. The problem is that the history of this high opinion of onstage magnetism is very uneven, and it ultimately proved Wilson’s undoing. Consider September 1919, as described by David Pietrusza: “Wilson had once admitted that though he had trouble speaking one on one with anyone, he could convince virtually any crowd, and indeed had accomplished that throughout his career – as a teacher, university president, governor, and president. When he could not spellbind an audience – as he could not at Versailles and with small groups of senators – failure beckoned. Wilson decided to orate the League of Nations into existence, circumventing opposing senators, embarking on a grand whistle-stop tour designed to directly sway tens of thousands of their constituents… he commenced a grueling 22-day 9,981 mile speaking tour designed to save his League. He was not up to it.” Wilson’s health gave out, his speeches fell flat, and he went from someone likely running for a third term at the beginning of the tour to the sickbed by the end of it. At some point, the people tire of the lectures, and they become an ineffectual drag (as Clemenceau said of Wilson, he “talks like Jesus Christ, and acts like Lloyd George.”) http://vlt.tc/7bb  But the American people did re-elect Wilson before they tired of him, in 1916, by the narrowest of margins (277 electoral votes, 3,800 votes in California being the difference). He was helped by the fact that his Republican opponent, Charles Evans Hughes, was a politically unskilled prevaricator of the first order who attempted to be all things to all people, always on both sides of an issue depending on which audience he spoke to – to the point that the press gave him the nickname “Charles Evasive Hughes.” He was rather like an Etch a Sketch. http://vlt.tc/7am

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