Does Mitt Romney Stand A Chance?

Sorry Mitt, but you might want to sit 2012 out

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While there are plenty of Republicans licking wounds after this week's health care vote, none are suffering as much as Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor has been taking flak left and right after Greg Sargent posted a 2008 primary video of Mitt Romney coming within syllables of endorsing a federal mandate on individual health-insurance. Given the close similarities between ObamaCare and Romney's highly touted RomneyCare package in Massachusetts, the former governor is caught in the middle of the partisan crossfire as he plans his role in the 2010 midterms. With Romney poised to take another shot at the White House in 2012, pundits are wondering: does Romney have a ghost of a chance at winning the presidency?

  • The Polls Say He's Rock Steady  A National Journal poll by Emily Swanson gauging support in the 2012 Republican Presidential primary shows Mitt Romney coming in first with 22%, followed closely by Sarah Palin with 18% and Mike Huckabee with 17%. Meanwhile, a CQ-Roll Call poll also puts Romney at the top of the heap, declaring that "a plurality of Republicans favor former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as the party's best bet to run against President Obama in 2012...Romney was the choice of 42 percent of Republicans in the Clarus poll, putting him ahead of other GOP politicians currently considering entering the race. That was little changed from a Clarus poll in August, when Romney stood at 38 percent...Obama leads Romney 45 percent to 41 percent with 14 percent undecided." A Hotline On Call poll rounds out pro-Romney polling data, noting that "Obama runs best against Palin, but worst against Romney." The Hotline poll also affirms that "GOPers also see Romney as one of the party's top spokespeople. When asked to name the party's major spokesperson, 14% settled on Romney while 14% came up with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)."
  • Things Can Change By 2012  At the liberal American Prospect, Paul Waldman shares his soft spot for the former governor and advises voters not to count Romney out just yet:
Remember what a big deal immigration was at the beginning of the 2008 primaries? Every Republican candidate wanted to be the most anti-immigrant. And who had the weakest claim to that title? John McCain ... after a couple of months of huffing and puffing, the issue disappeared. ...

Something similar could happen to Mitt in 2012. Lots of Republicans are already backing away from talk of "repealing" the reform. And once a few of them get burned for supporting repeal in 2010 ... the issue is not going to look so black-and-white. There's no question it will be a topic of discussion in 2012, but it could well be just one among many. And when Romney looks over the potential field -- Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty, etc. -- he no doubt thinks, "I can whip these bozos."
  • He's Got a Shot, But Not With This GOP  Jed Lewison at Daily Kos think that the GOP's "litmus test" of "absolute opposition to President Obama" will sink any chance of Republican support for Romney. After pondering the video spotlighting Romney's endorsement of an individual mandate, Lewison concludes that "It doesn't matter that President Obama's plan was embracing an idea that Romney had already implemented in Massachusetts. It doesn't matter that President Obama didn't support the idea during the 2008 campaign. The only thing that matters is that Romney publicly stated support for a key part of President Obama's health care reform plan, and that simple fact will wreck his presidential bid."

  • He's Too Mired In Controversy Now  Politico's Ben Smith calls health care reform "Romney's Iraq:"
Health care reform appears to be, for the 2012 Republican primary field, what Iraq was for the Democrats': A controversial executive decision that candidates have no political choice but to oppose -- even as they try to engage the details, and realize that the perceptions may change with time. Romney understood this early enough to oppose this plan from the start, but its passage is widening an open political wound, which is his ownership of the similar Massachusetts plan, which was viewed as a bipartisan model until all things related to expanding health care access became toxic on the right.
  • He's His Own Worst Enemy  At the Daily Beast, Matthew Yglesias is sure that Romney would be the right choice for GOPers...if he could only keep his mouth shut: "To get out of the current repealer cul-de-sac, Republicans need a leader who’s capable of framing the Obama’s core ideas as basically sensible. In a decent world, that leader would be Romney. Instead, he’s busy embarrassing himself and running away from his legacy."

  • He Should Have Stuck To His Principles  The Boston Globe's Joan Vennochi, based on her first-hand experience with Romney's Bay State politicking, doesn't think Romney could handle health care reform as a campaign issue: "Romney fully comprehends the complexities of access and cost control, but lacks the spine to address them in a non-partisan way. Instead of explaining the Massachusetts universal health care program, its strengths and weaknesses, Romney walked away from it. He renounced the bipartisan role he once embraced."
  • Romney + HCR = Toast John Marshall lays out the architecture of Romney's political demise in simple terms: "If the Republicans want to make Obama's signature piece of legislation a centerpiece of their 2012 campaign (and it's hard to imagine they won't since what else will they run on?), they can't very well run a candidate who supported and passed close to an identical bill. It's a no-brainer."
  • Quit While You're Behind "It's hard to believe a man seeking national office could be so foolish," writes Steve Benen, wondering how Romney could possibly believe that positioning himself as the nation's leading critic of health care reform will help his presidential aspirations:
On its face, Romney's strategy is burdened by his record. ... But that's really just scratching the surface. Romney also wants Republicans to know he thinks the new law is unconstitutional, presumably because of the individual mandate. That's problematic, too. For one thing, his own plan featured a mandate. Indeed, time and again, Romney has characterized mandates as a conservative idea.

Perhaps no one in modern political life has flip-flopped on more issues than Mitt Romney. The man simply bears no resemblance to his previous personas. But this reversal is just laughable -- the same man who embraced health care mandates in his own proposal now believes health care mandates are an unconstitutional abuse.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.