American Way: Could Mitt Romney ride to the rescue of the Republican Party?
It may sound absurd, but there are surprisingly good reasons why a Romney return might not be all that crazy
American Way: Matt Lewis
11:48AM BST 09 Aug 2014
As the Republican Party searches for a way to win back the White House after Barack Obama leaves the stage, could the nation be turning towards Mitt Romney?
Recalling one of Mr Romney's biggest blunders during his doomed 2012 presidential bid – questioning whether or not London was capable of hosting the Olympic Games – this might sound absurd. But there are surprisingly good reasons why a Romney return might not be all that crazy.
First, since his 2012 defeat, Mr Romney has been proved right about a variety of issues. When he called Russia a "geopolitical foe" during a 2012 presidential debate, Mr Obama gibed: "The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back, because the Cold War has now been over for twenty years."
Since that time, of course, Russia has annexed Crimea and massed troops on Ukraine's border. The shooting down of a Malaysian passenger plane in the east of the country is widely believed to have been carried out by Russian separatists. Advantage Mr Romney.
Within seconds of taunting Mitt over Russia, during that same debate, Mr Obama crowed: "Just a few weeks ago, you said you think we should have more troops in Iraq right now."
As I write these words, Islamic State militants are slaughtering Iraqi minorities having taken over Iraq's largest Christian city. This crisis might have been averted had Mr Obama decided to leave a small reserve force in Iraq. Another round for Mr Romney.
He was prescient about some other details, too, including Mali, where he was criticised for mentioning the rise of Islamist extremists in the northern part of the country.
More importantly, his more proactive foreign policy world-view seems to have been redeemed as the crumbling world we witness today stands as evidence of Mr Obama's failed foreign policy strategy, which has been dubbed "leading from behind".
But it wasn't just foreign policy. On the domestic front, Mr Romney warned about ObamaCare, saying that some of the "people who counted on the insurance plan they had in the past" would "lose it". In 2013, Politifact named the "if you like your plan, you can keep it" line their "lie of the year".
Perhaps this explains why a CNN poll released a couple weeks ago showed Mr Romney leading Mr Obama 53 to 44 in a hypothetical rematch of the 2012 election, though according to that same poll, he would lose to Hillary Clinton.
Mr Romney also benefits from the fact that a Netflix documentary released this early this year titled "Mitt" cast him in a better light than own campaign. "On the trail, Mitt Romney played down his Mormon faith at the advice of his staff, but in the film, he is shown tearfully kneeling in prayer with his family in hotel rooms," wrote Holly Bailey for Yahoo! News.
"Perhaps more than anything, the film reveals a candidate who was incredibly self-aware, with the ability to joke about his image ('Don't break my hair,' Romney teases a make-up artist before a television interview) and capable of feeling both confidence and doubt about his own abilities as a politician," Bailey continued.
Speaking of humanising the Republican, there's another reason a Romney run might not be crazy, and that is that having lost a campaign might actually make him more likeable.
He was often cast as a rich guy who led a charmed life. But Americans like a comeback story, and what better way to reinvent oneself as a man of the people than to have lost at something, only to get up, brush yourself off, and try again.
Mr Romney ran for the Republican nomination in 2008, falling short to John McCain. So this would be his third attempt at the presidency – which is not unprecedented. Most famously, William Jennings Bryan was a three-time losing Democratic nominee for president. But the American public has presumably grown more fickle since then.
A better model for Mitt might actually be Richard Nixon, who lost to John F. Kennedy in 1960, then lost the California gubernatorial election in 1962, only to win the presidency in 1968.
Pat Buchanan, who also ran for president three times, worked for Nixon, and is out with a new book about the 1968 race, titled The Greatest Comeback. When I asked Buchanan, whose sister Bay worked for Mitt, if Romney could make a similar comeback, he said:. "If I were Romney, there's no doubt I would do it."
But is it possible? There are different scenarios floated. One option has Mr Romney emerging from a brokered nominating convention as a compromise candidate. Perhaps a more likely scenario is this: The 2016 Republican field fails to draw a top-tier establishment contender, such as former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, opening the door for Mr Romney to be "drafted" into entering the election – perhaps as late as September 2015.
Because of his name recognition and fundraising network, Mr Romney could postpone any sort of decision until such a time, and enter the race tanned and rested – long after some of the other candidates have started to wear out their welcome with the public.
I'm not betting it will happen, but I am cautioning that this is not an absurd possibility. Stranger things have happened. Who knows, maybe the third time's a charm?