At some point this evening, under a Texas moon, Mitt Romney will finally have enough delegates to officially clinch the Republican nomination for president. This means lots of things, but most importantly for those of us making our living writing things about the news, it means no longer having to come up with synonyms for the word unofficial. Assumed nominee, soon-to-be nominee, all-but-guaranteed nominee, nominee apparent — we can put all of these tortured phrases to rest. Good riddance to overhyphenated rubbish.
But we’ll pour one out for the phrase “presumptive nominee,” which, in addition to being more elegant than the aforementioned versions, took on its own particular poetry when applied to Mitt Romney.
For some conservatives, at least, that extra adjective represented nothing quite so much as the audacity of hope. Sure, Romney’s nomination has basically been inevitable since, oh, 2008ish. But no one in his party has ever seemed particularly enthused about it, leading to the line-’em-up and knock-’em-down Cinderella stories of the GOP primary season, and the wishful thinking about late entrances from Chris Christie or Mitch Daniels or the Madame Toussaud’s statue of Ronald Reagan. There’s also something slightly brattier about the word “presumptive” than the other options; it makes it sound almost as if a charmless Eloise were demanding the stage in Tampa Bay this August and stamping her foot until she got it. Or, perhaps, the wealthy dauphin of a famous political family demanding his civic inheritance be paid out already.
Still, no matter how suitable the word might have been, and no matter how painful it might be for dyed-in-the-wool conservatives and writers stretching for a word count to retire it, it’s time to say good-bye to presumptive for now. We’ll see you in 2016. Presumably.