Democrats have Hillary Clinton, but Republicans still lack a clear 2016 frontrunner to direct their speculation toward. It's that vacuum of power that is giving rise to the Romney 2016 buzz, an enlistment campaign being pushed most aggressively by his friends and admirers.
In a piece for Politico magazine Robert C. O'Brien and Hugh Hewitt, two self-proclaimed Romney allies — "both Romney supporters in 2012, with Hewitt openly supporting his election on the air and O’Brien as part of the campaign team" — made the case for a Romney threepeat in 2016. Their argument boils down to this:
- Running a third time doesn't make him a loser — Ronald Reagan went through three GOP nomination cycles, "a fact that seems unknown to a younger generation of political pundits (as indeed, most of this history is)"
- Netflix's Mitt documentary showed a different side of the former governor, "a caring father, an earnest patriot and a warm and funny person"
- Romney has experience. The two reference Malcolm Gladwell's pseudoscientific 10,000 hours rule "and—whatever its scientific validity—Romney is a poster boy for it."
- Hillary Clinton is probably afraid of him. "It is a good bet that Hillary fears a Romney three-peat more than she does the first-time national candidacy of any of the other potential GOP nominees."
- He can handle the primary season better than other talented orators like Ted Cruz
While the case for Romney is shaky — Damon Winkler at The Week noted that he's one of the few people who would make Hillary Clinton's "dead broke" comments seem populist — there are valid reasons for Romney support. As Chris Cillizza at The Washington Post argued, "there's a strong narrative — particularly among Republicans — that Romney was right about much of what he said in 2012 about President Obama and the country."
And the rest of the GOP field — from Rand "I'm not an isolationist" Paul to Chris "Bridgegate" Christie — isn't looking too good in comparison. At least one poll shows Romney crushing the competition in a potential New Hampshire primary.
But Romney has said repeatedly that he doesn't want to run, even if he's been less convincing in recent weeks. In January, when The New York Times asked if he was considering a third run, he said "Oh, no, no, no," followed by, "No, no, no, no, no," and "No, no, no. People are always gracious and say, ‘Oh, you should run again.’ I’m not running again." Last month, that turned into "circumstances can change," but he's not running.
Still, that hasn't stopped a series of well-meaning friends from saying he should give it another shot. In July, the Draft Mitt campaign was launched by Utah Republican Party Chairman James Evans. A month later Romney's former national finance chairman Spencer Zwick called the group a "distraction" and asked people to avoid even signing up (the petition had more than 114,600 signatures), according to Deseret News. And in a cute joint appearance together last month, Romney and his former running mate Paul Ryan each said the other should run for office.
But ultimately, your friends can only do so much. "But limited or full-throttle, Romney would have to say “yes,” not “circumstances can change” to set the wheels in motion," O'Brien and Hewitt wrote. "It will be his choice."