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.

  1. Mitt Romney 2016: It's Real And It's Spectacular September 25, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    […] Update: Jonathan Last has more. […]

  2. REPLY
  3. Benjamin September 25, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    The “I would not change my polices much from the current president’s.” Or the cranky, elitist one.

    Both are extremely poorly skilled politicians.

  4. REPLY
  5. Paris Paramus September 26, 2014 at 9:36 pm

    I was uber-pro Romney in 2008 and 2012; he even got me to change my registration from Dem to GOP (I hadn’t been a real Dem since the mid-1990’s, and in NY…). He ran a mediocre campaign in 2012 in so many ways. I still think he is capable of something much better, and he’s the kind of guy who, when things fail, he goes back into the garage and figures out how to fix the mistakes.

    Maybe, for people like me, Blue State Conservatives, Romney is the ink blot that Obama was for progressives. Maybe he doesn’t get, or can’t articulate American Exceptionalism in a way that reaches enough people? In 2012, I said that he should be locked in a hotel suite for a weekend with Andrew Breitbart and Dennis Prager.

    Or maybe no one was going to win against Obama+the MSM?

    I’m willing to give him another chance but he really has to show things he didn’t show in 2012 (in the primaries). He also has to send Eric Fehrnstrom on a five year mission to open Staples stores in New Zealand or on Mars.

    PS: even without his amnesty baggage, I don’t think Marco Rubio is Presidential. Maybe when he’s older, but not now. Perry is the only serious rival to Romney; the others just seem kinda JV to me…

  6. REPLY
  7. Warner Todd Huston September 25, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    This marks the end of the Republican Party if either Romney or Bush are the nominee, or even get close to it, for that matter.

  8. REPLY
  9. Ci2Eye September 25, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    Given that question, I’d go with Romney. He isn’t a fresh exactly but compared to Bush whose family has reigned for 12 years previously in the Oval Office and to Clinton whose family has eight years of sitting behind the Resolute Desk, Romney suddenly looks fresh and new. Couple that with the fact that he appears to be a tailor-made president with competence, intelligence, temperament, grace, unimpeachable morals, and presidential good looks and he’s perfect.

    His big drawback is that he isn’t so terrific at being a politician and wowing the crowds with soaring rhetoric. However, after eight years of having an awesome politician as president who has also proven himself to be somewhat of a one-trick pony that can’t actually do the job, maybe a good politician isn’t what America will seek next time. If they look instead for an accomplished executive and manager with all the qualities to make a fine president, I think Mitt is it.

  10. REPLY
  11. lee September 25, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    I’m on board with you Ci2eye. His moral character will lead to good judgement decisions. He is a deep patriot with a deep fundamental understanding of the Christian values of this company. I would feel a renewed assurance of the coming back of America. This country puts way to much stock in the glitz and personality of the candidate and nothing into substance. Believe me as a former Reagan delegate, Ronald Reagan would approve of Mitt Romney.

  12. REPLY
  13. Ed Driscoll » Mitt Romney: Tanned, Rested and Ready? September 25, 2014 at 6:23 pm

    […] Jonathan Last takes a look at the GOP line-up for POTUS 2016 and does not like what he sees. “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:” […]

  14. REPLY
  15. guy September 25, 2014 at 6:56 pm

    “If I told you that you had to have either Jeb or Romney 5.0 as the nominee, who would you pick?”

    I’d write in either SMOD or Y. pestis.

    When the choice is between a party that stabs you in the face vs a party that stabs you in the back the correct answer is ‘screw them all’.

  16. REPLY
  17. shogun September 26, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    Spot on ..Guy.. great choice.

  18. REPLY
  19. Joe Smart September 25, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    Mitt Romney ran against a very unpopular Democratic incumbent. The race should have been winnable and it wasn’t even close. Why do people think he would be a better candidate in 2016? He’s still the guy who ran for senate as a liberal to the left of Ted Kennedy. He’s still the guy who created Romney-care, which was the inspiration for Obama-care–you know, the single worst piece of legislation ever passed in the republic, including the legalization of slavery? Extreme right-wingers control the nominating process because of the way Republicans set up their primary map. Mitt Romney has no record as a conservative beyond claiming that he was one during presidential primaries–if he runs it will be the same as last time where the base of the party, the extreme right wing, embraces any clown against Romney because they are more concerned with ideological purity than winning elections. Whomever Romney would face in 2016 is pretty much guaranteed to be more popular than Obama was in 2012–so why would anybody think Romney 2016 is a good idea?

  20. REPLY
  21. Rich September 26, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    A health insurance mandate (kind of like Medicare) is worse than slavery? Would you put the chains on first? And I’m not talking about metaphorical chains I’m talking about the real chains.

  22. REPLY
  23. shogun September 26, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    I come from the same industry Romney’s from. And I’m all Constitution, States Rights & stay outta my life.
    1st you have to understand that D.C. is a BUSINESS – anyone with Ethics need not apply. And, all those millions of mostly socialist bureaucrats have to pump out forest sized paperwork/regulations every day just to justify their jobs. Romney ‘gets’ that and won’t tolerate it. No one in the country knows how to run a business better, smaller or more effectively than Romney. And Romney will dump & give authority back to the States of many Fed Departments & Agencies.
    He’s very into States Rights, which is what Romney-care was about. The people of his State wanted that. They pay the taxes there to support it. Don’t like it? Move to a State that fits you better. TONS of choices. As opposed to Obama-care, move to a different Country if you don’t like it. So do not confuse the two.

    Nor is there a more ethical person in the country.

    Those two items are 40%of the battle.
    60% is stopping the Illegal Aliens who don’t share America’s values and come from violent Socialist countries from a) getting into the country b) remaining in the country which = c) getting on the VOTING Rolls.
    Romney made no bones about it : Border Control and self deportation.
    He gets an A+ on all 3. What are you you all waiting for as a President ? Perfection? Zero flaws?
    Good luck on that, let the Libs keep rolling over you.
    Romney is the right man for the job at the perfect time. Without total Republican & Independent support for Romney, Hillary wins & 16 straight years of judges/SCOTUS appointments & bureaucratic staffing in D.C. with Socialists will not be reversible in a long, long time – if ever. Think & vote carefully.

  24. REPLY
  25. Ci2Eye September 26, 2014 at 9:39 am


    Barack Obama was not “very unpopular” with everyone; only very unpopular with Republicans. Clearly, with a large swath of voters he was quite popular although many have since soured on him.

    In 2012, Romney was placed in the very unfortunate situation of having to battle the ‘clowns’ as you call them in an extended primary while the president was already running a general election campaign against him. We can thank Michael Steele, former Chairman of the GOP for that. Steele created a very long and competitive process for the 2012 Republican nomination that was designed to allow many contenders, not just those best funded, to have a shot at winning the nomination. Thus, the process was long and there were many, many debates which provided a forum for even the poorly funded candidates like Rick Santorum to get his message out. While it may have been a noble goal, it proved disastrous. Romney was still fighting for the nomination when Barack Obama, having no primary opponent, began his campaign against him and stated relentlessly running negative ads accusing Romney of being, among other things, a killer. Romney wasn’t able to respond. By the time the GOP actually nominated Romney and he was able to begin his general election campaign, Obama had been hammering him for at least six months and he was defined in the minds of many voters. Although he made progress in turning the situation around, he simply ran out of time. Ironically, according to a recent poll, if the election were held today, Romney would easily win.

    In the “autopsy” performed by the GOP on the 2012 race, this lengthy primary was cited as a key problem and in 2016, the GOP will return to a process more like those that had occurred pre-2012 with the number of debates dramatically reduced, the convention and thus the christening of the nominee moved up on the calendar and a primary schedule designed to move the process along rather than dragging it out. That should enhance the chances of the GOP in the 2016 race.

    Although Romney was hampered by the process, I would readily acknowledge he isn’t the best politician. Actually being president would be a role I am convinced he would excel at and he would work tirelessly to restore America but getting that job requires political skill and Romney isn’t the best at that. In 2012, he was up against a master, one of the most gifted politicians of our time, a man who was able to wow the voters with soaring rhetoric and ignite passion. Hillary Clinton is not Barack Obama and even if she isn’t the Democrat nominee next time, it is unlikely they will find another candidate so capable of stirring the public and even if they did, that’s likely not going to have the same impact. Instead, after eight years of a man who is a gifted orator but not so adept at leading and managing, America likely will be looking for competence. For substance over style and Romney excels in that category like no other currently on the horizon. And, his stature has already risen simply because he was proven prescient on so much of what he said in 2012; things that were often the subject of ridicule are now seen as having been astute observations.

    Although running the same guy again is clearly not ideal, I believe he still represents a better choice than Jeb Bush and given different circumstances and a campaign manager better than Stuart Stevens, I believe Romney can win and maybe even win big.

  26. REPLY
  27. Mike Collins September 26, 2014 at 10:07 am

    Romney grew on me quite a bit during 2012, and I think he probably would be a pretty good executive. But he still is a mediocre campaigner with a lot of negatives and I have zero confidence he would beat HRC (or anyone else for that matter). Hard to see another Bush being elected, and I’m not really sold on him as an executive either. So I’ll go with “neither of the above.” BTW, Joe Smart’s historical illiteracy is awesome. If extreme right wingers “control the nominating process”, then why does the least conservative viable candidate seem to get the nomination every time?

  28. REPLY
  29. kevin September 26, 2014 at 10:08 am

    Now I think Romney is electoral suicide, I don’t like Ocare, but saying it was worse than several hundred years of enslavement and trading people like property…..


  30. REPLY
  31. Warner Todd Huston September 26, 2014 at 10:52 am

    Ocare IS Rcare. Romneycare IS Obamacare. A vote for Romney is a vote for Obama.

  32. REPLY
  33. Kevin September 26, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    And that wasn’t my point.

    My point was saying that whatever you want to call it, health care reform was not worse than several centuries of enslavement.

    I tend to disdain both Romney and the health care law, but that’s just breathing in the vapors.

  34. REPLY
  35. The Fear That Makes Republicans Cling to Mitt | The Penn Ave Post September 26, 2014 at 10:16 am

    […] talk about Mitt or even Carly Fiorina more understandable. Here’s veteran conservative writer Jonathan Last: People have assumed for two years now that the 2016 GOP field won’t be the 2012 clown show, […]

  36. REPLY
  37. mrmandias September 26, 2014 at 10:41 am

    That’s like asking which side of the bread I want shittered. Guess I might give Romney a slight edge on electability because Jeb is so tone deaf on immigration and has the Bush taint (I see what you did there–the Couch), and maybe a slight edge to Jeb on governance just because Romney is such an unknown quantity. jeb’s track record as a multi-term successful governor of Florida trumps Romney’s single term in Mass.

  38. REPLY
  39. SkinsFanPG September 26, 2014 at 10:58 am

    Fuck Romney and his magic fucking underwear. Yeah, if he runs again, he better prepare for the Mormon attacks. It’s a weird religion. Can we please stop acting like it is the same as other Christian sects? Enough with Romney.

    Love me some Jeb though.

  40. REPLY
  41. mrmandias September 26, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    I’d roll my eyes, but I guess you’re used to it by now.

  42. REPLY
  43. shogun September 26, 2014 at 5:49 pm


  44. REPLY
  45. Gabe September 26, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    So the guy who wouldn’t disclose his taxes (the son of a dad who thought disclosure was important) is going to succeed in a world where inequality is even more of a defining issue? As in 2012, the ads are going to “re”write themselves (now with help from clips from the Mitt documentary). By his own admission, he’s a flawed candidate……w/o the narrative to overcome it.

    And for the independents, he had a huge chance in 2012 to tell a compelling story about capitalism’s blessings, but never did. No idea why he’s running from what people know and expect him to be about(?)

    This will not end well.

  46. REPLY
  47. fred September 26, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    What the fuck are you smoking? You are seriously tripping!

  48. REPLY
  49. shogun September 26, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    yes musta got a bad batch or seems the socialists want to muddy the waters here

  50. REPLY
  51. valerie September 26, 2014 at 1:50 pm

    Where once the 2016 field was my dream list for POTUS contenders, it is now a burial plot. Governor McDonnell was the last body put to rest in it. The field is weak. Any attempts to spin that miserable fact are wasted on me and any reasonable voter.
    A few names are worthy of our attention: Walker, Martinez, Rubio, Pence,McDaniels, and maybe Ryan. Throw into that mix Romney and well…..He looks pretty good.
    I’ll end with this to sum about my feelings about Bush- “One Mitt is worth 2 in the Bush.” Regrettably I think Jeb would be a terrific president.

  52. REPLY
  53. Stan September 26, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    I don’t think the people that make comments here are keeping track of whats going on. Jeb Bush is not going to run. Mitt Romney is the only contender to face Hillary in 2016. Who knows the economy, who listens to the intel that is given to him, who knows how to create jobs, and who is without selfish ambitions, Mitt Romney.

  54. REPLY
  55. shogun September 26, 2014 at 5:53 pm

    Stan…short & spot on , good post.

  56. REPLY
  57. Rebecca October 3, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    agree 100%. Romney can beat Hilary, end of story.

  58. REPLY
  59. Rich September 26, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    The GOP is running out of time and 2016 represents their best chance at hold on to their principles and still winning the White House. But Texas turns purple in 2020 and blue in 2024 and that is game over for those principles as 270 electoral votes are automatic for democrats.

  60. REPLY
  61. mrmandias September 26, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    based on Romney’s fairly lackluster performance, I think a candidate with selfish ambition might be a better bet.

  62. REPLY
  63. Kevin September 26, 2014 at 6:46 pm

    All politicians are selfish and ambitious. Just so long as they are selfish and ambitious towards our interests, more power to them.

    The problem with Romney is his ambition panders to my interests, your interests, his interests, her interests, and everyone’s interests possible, to the point he has no core convictions on anything outside of win and make money.

  64. REPLY
  65. Fake Herzog September 26, 2014 at 8:17 pm

    What do I want out of a candidate in 2016 (besides beating the Democratic nominee)?

    1) Someone who can shut down the “comprehensive immigration reform” chant, beef-up border enforcement, and explain to the American people why we need fewer immigrants not more at this point in our history (and do it in a way that doesn’t freak people out…best chance of this might be an immigrant like Jindal or Cruz);

    2) Repeal and replace Obamacare;

    3) Shrink the size of the federal government

    4) Reform (i.e. spend less on) Medicare and Medicaid

    5) Defend marriage at the federal level and if that’s not possible, defend religious liberty with zeal

    5.1) Figure out a new foreign policy by downloading Angelo Codevilla’s brain.

    If I had to choose between Romney and Jeb…I might shoot myself. They will both be awful. Jeb will definitely pass a Mexican invasion bill and I just can’t see Romney ending Obamacare. But maybe I’m wrong and he’s seen the light since its implementation…I think I’m talking myself into pulling the lever for him. Curse you Last.

    By the way, let’s assume Walker wins in Wisconsin and runs for President. Let’s also assume Perry and Jindal run. Those are three strong governors running — throw in Rand Paul (who I like a lot but worry about his foreign policy instincts and have no idea how he would deal with immigration) and Ted Cruz and that’s not a bad field at all. Five smart, interesting and capable individuals — some better politicians than others, others better policy guys, but all bring something to the table.

  66. REPLY
  67. Ray Midge September 27, 2014 at 7:57 am

    Bob Gates

  68. REPLY
  69. Brian Reilly September 27, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    Mr. Romney never ran for president. He has run for the Republican nomination, but never run for the office. He di dnot run against Mr. Obama, he just stood there. Count on him to stand there again, if he seeks and gets the Republican nomination. He will stand there, and serve if elected, but he will not run for it.

    The Mormon comments are spot on. Mr. Obama never had to play that card in 2012. If Romney is called on as a Mormon in 2016 (he will not get called during the primaries), he will not have a credible explanation, as there is not one to be had. There is nothing wrong with being a Mormon, but there is no defense of tha system of beliefs that will pass the MSM.

    Mr. Romney, please do not run.

    Jeb Bush is a decent man. Had his brother not been president when the hurricanes swept through Florida, or if Mr. Bush had been governor when the housing bust swept through Florida, I have a feeling that he would not be so well regarded. As it is, he is no conservative, and that is all I am interested in. Stay home, Jeb.

  70. REPLY
  71. Jim Hartman September 29, 2014 at 12:02 am

    In light of your longstanding allergy to Mitt Romney and his presidential candidacy you consistently wrote about in 2012, I was surprised (and pleased) with your current assessment of Romney for a 2016 race. Your analysis is “spot on”. In my view, Romney was “head and shoulders” the best (and only) realistic GOP choice in 2012 among a weak field. As you insightfully note, the GOP field in 2016 is likely to end up being similarly undistinguished. Romney could be a far stronger candidate in 2016 if more conservative opinion leaders got on board for him early. The resistance to Romney in 2012 for so long contributed to his defeat–and the depth of that opposition from conservative opinion journalists was surprising to me in light of Romney’s being the National Review “endorsed” conservative for President in 2008. Congratulations on your revised view of Romney for 2016.

  72. REPLY
  73. SkinsFanPG September 29, 2014 at 10:49 am

  74. REPLY
  75. Talk of Romney in 2016 Continues to Grow | World News | Nigerian Nation News September 29, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    […] the pluses and minuses of another run.” Also last week, Jonathan Last at The Weekly Standard posed the rhetorical question of whether the possibility of a Mitt Romney 2016 candidacy is real and offered the response “Do I […]

  76. REPLY
  77. G.L. September 29, 2014 at 11:59 pm

    If there’s one thing the past two presidential primary election cycles have made clear; it’s that the GOP donor class will give their last dollar and drop of blood to ensure no one reduces DC’s footprint in the rest of our lives. Jeb and Romney both stand for the Chamber of Commerce and keeping the money flowing up and down I-95 between DC and Wall Street. So, thanks for asking, I’ll take Rick Perry.

  78. REPLY
  79. Rebecca October 3, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    Romney all the way. Romney is the best candidate all around. He is the only one with economic know how to get us out of this mess that Obama has created. I agree that Romney can and will run a better campaign, particularly showcasing himself in social media and utilizing more modern outlets to make himself and what he brings to the table well known to the younger voters. Second, while I do not dislike Jeb Bush, I wish he would take himself back out of this conversation. I adored GWB, but the fact is the media slaughtered him over and over and over. This 2016 race is potentially one of the most important races for the GOP. IF we do not get a victory, it could be almost impossible to undo more democratic legislation down the road. Jeb is not a winner, he cannot defeat the Clinton machine. Romney can, and I think Rubio is running mate.