Why Romney's Comeback Will Hit a Brick Wall
Mitt Romney's resurrection may now be the most hyped since Jesus Christ. Just days after conservative columnist Byron York announced "Romney 2016 is for real," the Washington Post, Vox and now the New York Times declared that "Mitt Romney isn't ready to call it quits." So, after Mitt Romney's repeated promises that "we're not doing that again" and his wife Ann's 2012 vow that "he will not run again, nor will I," the two-time White House loser now says "we'll see what happens."
Unfortunately for Mitt Romney, what will happen is what always happens. If absence makes the heart grow fonder, familiarity breeds contempt. Or to put it another way, the closer they get to Election Day, the less Americans like Mitt Romney.
The list of reasons why voters inevitably come to disdain the man from Bain is a long one. But his shocking lack of self-awareness, as he showed in the recent New York Times profile, has to rank near the top:
"My mistake was that I was speaking in a way that reflected back to the man," Romney said. "If I had been able to see the camera, I would have remembered that I was talking to the whole world, not just the man." I had never heard Romney say that he was prompted into the "47 percent" line by a ranting supporter. It was also impossible to ignore the phrase "If I had to do this again."
Romney's camera-at-all-times plan, however, reflected his own limitations as a candidate. By the same token, it was quite an indictment that "Mitt" -- made by a little-known filmmaker on a shoestring -- created a more palatable rendering of Romney than his campaign, which spent hundreds of millions on genius operatives and image makers. Romney, for his part, seemed to understand this. No matter how content he appeared, when the conversation turned to his disappointment in losing, his voice dropped. "It really kills me," he said. "It really kills me." He became inaudible, and it seemed as if he might tear up.
On paper, the wealthy, handsome businessman with "shoulders you could land a 737 on" is the very model of the modern major presidential candidate. A former blue state governor and scion of famous political family, Romney arrived from central casting to claim the 2008 GOP nomination.
But it didn't work out that way. Even after jumping to the front of the pack in November 2007, Romney's descent began as the Republican primary debates heated up. Despite spending $45 million of his own money, Mitt was out by the end of February 2008. (Romney's willingness to write off that investment and to instead fundraise for John McCain was not enough to secure him the VP slot.) In 2011, the process almost repeated itself with a comically weak GOP field, with Romney at one point or another trailing the likes of Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich. Eventually, Mitt won a grueling war of attrition against Rick Santorum, a niche candidate who lost his previous Senate re-election campaign by a whopping 18 points. And yet, despite a brutally slow economic recovery and high unemployment that would have doomed most incumbent presidents, Barack Obama comfortably dispensed with the tax-dodging, 47 percent mocking, gymnastically flip-flopping, pathologically lying, champion of self-deporting, Muslim-conflating chameleon and vulture capitalist.
It's no wonder that Governor Romney said of that defeat, "It really kills me." But not because he has "no question" he would have been a better president or that "Obama is even worse than I expected." It was actually his wife, Ann Romney, who gave it all away during the 2012 campaign. As Salon reported:
"I truly want Mitt to fulfill his destiny, and for that to happen, he's got to do politics," Ann told the Los Angeles Times on the eve of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. In his book "Turnaround," Mitt says he initially resisted the offer to take over the games until Ann changed his mind. "There's no one else who can do it," he remembers her saying. Last year, when Mitt entered the presidential race, Ann told Parade, "I felt the country needed him ... This is now Mitt's time." In a March radio interview, Ann declared, "He's the only one who can save America."
But Americans didn't believe that in 2008 or 2012. And even with the supposed buyer's remorse and a beaten and battered 2016 GOP field working to his advantage, Mitt Romney is not going to become the 45th president of the United States.
The voters, it turns out, just aren't that into Mitt Romney. Especially when it is time to vote.