What’s left of the battered politician inside Mitt Romney shook suddenly and unpredictably into action this past weekend and upended the fledgling field of GOP Presidential hopefuls. Mitt Romney, in a meeting with his former donors, stated that he is considering another run for the Presidency. Monday morning brought the aftershock as Romney began working the phones, rounding up former staff and supporters, making it clear he is leaning towards entering the campaign. The following questions stream through one’s mind at such news: Is he serious? Has he lost it? Does he just like torturing his family? Is he just trying to get me to watch his Netflix documentary again? Is he still anti-moonbase? Is he that guy that asks you to the prom three times until his mother talks to your mother, who think’s he’s “a fine boy”, and then he makes you take pictures with his whole family in front of their fireplace and his grandmother sighs watery-eyed when he puts on your corsage, which you explicitly said you didn’t want to begin with?
Yes, Mitt Romney really could be renominated. He has the connections of two previous national campaigns, donors with deep pockets, ubiquitous name recognition, and a completely vetted, bland, and repressed existence that is almost unnatural. But are those advantages not outweighed by a public tired of dusty campaign promises and outworn slogans? No, we love outworn slogans, they’re like the cool freighted t-shirts of politics, and we’ll fall for the dusty campaign promises every time.
Since Reconstruction, seven former nominees for the Presidency have sought their Party’s nomination (not counting incumbent Presidents), Adlai Stevenson and William Jennings Bryan doing it twice. Of the nine attempts, the former nominee regained the nomination six times. Now, you could argue that many of these nominations predate the primary system we have today, but starting with Teddy Roosevelt handing President William Howard Taft’s rather robust ass to himself in the primaries held in 1912, former nominees have won a majority of contested primaries. Each reclaimed the nomination for a second time with the exceptions of Roosevelt, who won the primaries but was robbed at the convention by his former friends and the political machine that he himself had built, and Al Smith, who was crushed by another Roosevelt.
In the end Teddy got his wish and we’ve democratized our nomination processes for the major Parties. Under today’s rules, it would be incredibly hard to deny a former nominee from a second bid at the White House. However, actually winning the White House is another story. Richard Nixon is the only real phoenix in the group, the only one to lose a national popular election and come back to win the Presidency. Is it really likely that Mitt will enter another two-year campaign, twist himself into another set of political positions, and fight tooth and nail for something he’s already won only to lose something he’s already lost? Or is it more likely he’s fighting for relevance, a couple weeks of press attention and PAC money, in a world that’s otherwise forgotten him?