Mitt Romney has explained why he isn’t running for president in 2016 at least a dozen different ways. "Oh, no, no, no," he said in January 2014, adding that he was going to happily support Chris Christie or Scott Walker or Jeb Bush. "No, no, no, no, no. No, no, no."
He understood why people were interested. "The unavailable is always the most attractive, right?" he explained in diction that made his absence in the 2016 race feel even more profound. "That goes in dating as well." Shortly before Romney announced that he wasn’t running in an especially emphatic way early in 2015, Donald Trump noted that the nominee “can’t be Mitt, because Mitt ran and failed. He failed."
People gave up bugging him for awhile, realizing it was futile and unaware that a few months later Donald Trump would be on top of the polls, and all of those candidates Romney listed would be found wanting — at least in the doldrums of August, when it is hard to make anyone care about policy when there are free helicopter rides to go on.
When his name first began to reappear, it didn’t seem to be much more than a joke.
The cruelest month of the 2016 cycle (so far) has lasted long enough for some people to forget they were just joking about a Romney campaign.
Former Trump advisor Roger Stone went on CNN this weekend and said that he heard that Romney was thinking of getting into the race — and that someone definitely needed to get Jeb Bush a cheeseburger because his hunger was clearly making him boring. Bill Kristol wrote on Saturday, “Shouldn’t Republicans be open to doing what Democrats are now considering? That is: Welcoming into the race, even drafting into the race if need be, one or two new and potentially superior candidates?” (He offered Supreme Court justice Samuel Alito as an option, however, not Romney.)
Last week, the Washington Post published an article noting that Romney had stayed “relatively silent” on Trump mania. “A potentially powerful voice in countering Trump, he has resisted weighing in at length, though friends said he has been monitoring the summer maneuvering with interest. He declined an interview request.”
Romney has been using time he could have spent commenting on the 2016 election this year doing more amusing things like hanging out with Selina Meyer …
… posting adorable photos of his grandchildren …
… taking selfies with people who like him now that he is not running for office …
… and probably remembering how not fun it was when he got in trouble for discussing self-deportation, being laughed at when he talked about liking grits, and being told he was a sucky presidential candidate over and over and over again.
Being a hibernating superhero is great fun, but the adoration only last as long as you avoid acquiescing to nostalgic fans and refuse to accept any political responsbilities. One of the unfortunate inevitabilities of American politics is that voters forget they ever thought a politician was the only hope for saving the republic once said politician announces any ambitions to govern it. Just ask Hillary Clinton, whose favorability ratings dropped considerably when she went from being Secretary of State to White House frontrunner. Candidates in the rearview mirror always appear more heroic than they are.
So, enjoy being the Republican Party’s unattainable and desirable savior while you can, Mitt Romney, and remember they’ll only stay twitterpated as long as you remain the one that got away.