Earlier this week, Mitt Romney launched a trial balloon for a third run at the presidency. In the days since, political commentators, GOP megadonors, and influential moguls have done more than just deflate it — they’ve popped it loudly and watched the pieces fly all over the room. Romney will address GOP leaders at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting Friday night, but many influencers seem to have already made up their minds.
The concerns of party members are many. There’s the fact that Romney has already failed twice: “He had a great opportunity last time and I personally want a fresh face,” Louisiana Republican Party chair Roger Villere told Politico. “What’s going to be different this time?” “There’s not a lot of good precedent for somebody losing the election and coming back four years later and becoming the nominee,” Minnesota Congressman Vin Weber, a co-chair of Romney’s last presidential bid, told Bloomberg Politics. There are questions about his plan to reassemble much of the same team from 2012: “He didn’t run his campaign right against Obama,” said Bill Eastland, a Texas Republican, at a recent RNC winter meeting in San Diego. “He flubbed it. Another Romney candidacy would be a complete disaster, and I don’t think he’ll even get there.” There’s Romney’s image, post-47 percent comments, as an out-of-touch plutocrat: “We need someone with wide appeal to people of all walks of life and from all cultures that make up the tapestry that is America,” Washington state GOP leader Susan Hutchison, who was a Romney backer in 2012, told the AP. And there’s the much more crowded and competitive 2016 GOP field, including Jeb Bush, who already announced his run.
Big names have also gone out of their way to dismiss Romney. Rupert Murdoch, who never liked Romney in the first place, told a conservative think tank that he was a “terrible candidate.” New York Times columnist David Brooks ran through a list of 2016 contenders and only mentioned Mitt in the context of the ”post-Romney era.” Even Paul Ryan, the fresh-faced congressman whom Romney selected as his running mate in 2012, ducked the opportunity to back him. “I’m not going to get into any of that. I have spoken to Mitt, he’s a very dear friend of mine,” he said, adding, “It’s no secret I think he’d be a fantastic president.” And diehard Erick Hartsburg, who got Romney’s logo needled in next to his right eyebrow in the last election, told Intelligencer that he now likes Chris Christie, Marco Rubio … and Hillary Clinton.
In fact, Hillary seems to be the one person outside his inner circle who wants Romney to run. “We’d be much more concerned about Bush,” one Clinton adviser told the New York Daily News. But if it’s Romney, “We will cream him.”