Sunday, February 1, 2015

Mitt Did the Right Thing (Finally!)

Mitt: I am not running in 2016

At the end of 2014, the 2012 GOP Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney declared three times on Fox News that he was not running for President. It was crystal clear to everyone watched that he was not going to run again, and they took the man as a man of his word. A quiet applause from disillusioned conservatives praised his resolve.

Then two months later, the background noise among elite Republican donors murmured that Mitt was mulling another run for President. He sure looked like he was preparing for a third campaign. His wife, Ann Romney, who had appeared opposed to another national campaign, also hinted that he was in it to (try and) win it. Close staffers affirmed that Romney was still ambitious, and very bored, interested in another shot. That revelation was confusing, in part because Romney's own sons avowed his lack of interest running the second time.

Would the third time be the charm for the savior of the 2002 Winter Olympics and the one-term governor of Massachusetts? Romney supporters argued yes, comparing their favorite to the generic GOP standard-bearer Ronald Reagan, who had run for President in 1968 and 1976 before gaining the nomination and finally the Presidency in 1980.

Some of the rumors indicated concerns left and right that 2016 could be the Massachusetts moderate's year because the country was desperate for leadership, and Anyone But Obama or Hillary would do. Yet that was the argument in 2012, and even then the Republican base never embraced Romney, including the five million Republicans would did not vote.

Besides, the fault comparison between Mitt Romney and Ronald Reagan fails on many levels.

As Governor of California, Reagan did represent a liberal-leaning state, although the Golden State was still swinging Republican. Reagan served two terms in Sacramento with unswerving resolve against liberal protestors at UC Berkeley, and progressive agitators in the state legislature. He balanced budgets year after year, leaving office with a surplus and bestowing California was a statewide legacy of conservative progress. In contrast,  Romney the governor of Massachusetts served only one term on Beacon Hill, and even then he faced a supermajority Democratic legislature. Despite vetoing 700+  bills, he waffled on gun control, supported homosexual accommodation, and introduced Romneycare to the Commonwealth, the blue print for Obamacare, neither of which has controlled costs nor increased health care quality and efficiency.

Reagan governed conservatively, and won reelection in the process. Romney was a moderate who di not bother fighting for another term, then tried two years later to run from his record when seeking the Presidency in 2008. Arizona Senator and ultimate GOP Presidential candidate John McCain called Romney "the real candidate of change". McCain was right even though he was hardly the strongest candidate himself to represent Republicans nationally.

Despite their string of failures, Establishment power players still worried about a conservative candidate winning the nomination, and they pressed Mitt to step in. Last week, Romney met with another favored Establishment candidate, Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida. Photo-ops of the two men riding an airplane and discussing their plans suggested a thin veneer of comity, despite their dueling ambitions. What were they discussing? Some news reporters suggested that they were ironing out their differences on immigration reform. Most agreed that the two of them were seeking ways to avoid a long fight over donors and press coverage over the next year to clinch the Establishment nod for the GOP nom.

Whatever transpired during their tete-a-tete, Mitt left the meeting upbeat, then announced what he had declared in November last year: "I will not be running for President in 2016."

Mitt has done the right thing by honoring his prior commitment not to commit. However, the fact that he subtly yet actively explored another bid in the last two months affirms conservative resistance to any Establishment candidate, and welcome Romney's withdrawal.  His furtive actions to reconsider the "final" decision confirm his instability both in perception and character. Fox News anchor Chris Wallace reminded Romney of his numerous gaffes during the 2012 Presidency, including "I like being able to fire people" and his infamous 47% remarks to private donors in Florida. These sudden reconsiderations emphasized the unavoidable pitfalls of a third Romney campaign for President.

Mitt is no longer in it for 2016. Finally, he is doing the right thing, not just for himself and his family, but for the country, not just hoping for hope and change, but demanding battle-tested, uncompromising leadership with a vivid eye toward America's better future.

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