Does Mitt Romney Want to Be the GOP’s Philosopher-King?

He’s certainly acting like it.

Mitt Romney speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, on March 15, 2013. 
National Journal
Emma Roller
June 17, 2014, 1:20 a.m.

It’s been a big year for Mitt Rom­ney — and I don’t mean that fa­cetiously. After los­ing the pres­id­en­tial elec­tion, he vowed to re­tire from a life of chron­ic can­did­acy. But that doesn’t mean he re­tired from polit­ics.

On the con­trary, Rom­ney is more vis­ible now than he has been since the 2012 elec­tion. He’s had a (pretty friendly) doc­u­ment­ary come out about his failed pres­id­en­tial cam­paign; Fox News has touted his pre­dic­tion that Rus­sia is “our No. 1 geo­pol­it­ic­al foe”; the Na­tion­al Re­pub­lic­an Sen­at­ori­al Com­mit­tee is giv­ing one lucky donor the chance to “Grab a Bite With Mitt”; and just this week­end, he hos­ted a con­fer­ence for the next mot­ley class of GOP hope­fuls.

Mem­bers of the Class of 2016 — New Jer­sey Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Rand Paul, and Rep. Paul Ry­an — all gathered in Park City, Utah, over the week­end to par­ti­cip­ate in Rom­ney’s lead­er­ship con­fer­ence. Called “The Fu­ture of Amer­ic­an Lead­er­ship,” the sum­mit re­sembled a con­ser­vat­ive ver­sion of the As­pen Ideas Fest­iv­al. Rom­ney’s pur­pose in host­ing the gath­er­ing, as Nich­olas Con­fess­ore wrote, was “to trans­form the rump of his pres­id­en­tial cam­paign in­to a king­mak­ing force for his largely lead­er­less and di­vided party.”

To use a gran­di­ose term, what the mod­ern GOP needs is a philo­soph­er-king: someone who can con­nect can­did­ates with donors and bund­lers, who can go on Meet the Press and calmly ex­plain that no, the Re­pub­lic­an Party is not in dis­ar­ray, and who can work quietly in the back­ground without hav­ing to sweat the dona­tions or the in­fight­ing. In 2012, Karl Rove was the closest thing Re­pub­lic­ans had to that kind of con­sigliere — un­til, well, it all fell apart. But in 2014, Rom­ney fits that bill pre­cisely.

It’s easy to dis­miss Rom­ney as a polit­ic­al fail­ure, a his­tor­ic­al foot­note. But this sort of comeback is not without pre­ced­ent. Des­pite run­ning three failed pres­id­en­tial cam­paigns between 1952 and 1960, Ad­lai Steven­son non­ethe­less had a huge ef­fect on the philo­sophy of that era’s Demo­crat­ic Party, and then on the U.S. more broadly as am­bas­sad­or to the United Na­tions.

Rom­ney made his polit­ic­al ree­m­er­gence last Au­gust, when he hos­ted a fun­draiser for the New Hamp­shire Re­pub­lic­an Party near the Rom­ney sum­mer home in Wolfe­boro, N.H. “I’m prob­ably not the first per­son you’d ask for ad­vice,” he told the at­tendees at the event. “But be­cause we all learn from our mis­takes, I may have a thought or two of value.”

Rom­ney’s fel­low mod­er­ate thought lead­ers nev­er lost faith in him. Ry­an, Rom­ney’s former run­ning mate, called Rom­ney “a pil­lar of the mod­ern Re­pub­lic­an Party” in a re­cent NR­SC fun­drais­ing email. Joe Scar­bor­ough wants to draft Rom­ney for 2016 — an ef­fort Rom­ney has deemed “kind of silly.”

Dante Scala, a Uni­versity of New Hamp­shire polit­ic­al-sci­ence pro­fess­or, pre­dicted Rom­ney’s post-cam­paign ca­reer tra­ject­ory last Ju­ly. “I sus­pect if he’s in­ter­ested, he’ll be look­ing for more of a king­maker, be­hind-the-scenes type of role,” Scala told the Deser­et News.

And king­maker is a title that seems to fit Rom­ney well. He has seam­lessly transitioned from can­did­ate to a mem­ber of the con­ser­vat­ive elite. Sen. John Mc­Cain went back to gov­ern­ing in the Sen­ate after los­ing to Obama in 2008. By con­trast, Rom­ney is mak­ing the leap to politick­ing.

Now Rom­ney is train­ing his sights on the GOP’s next big tar­get: Hil­lary Clin­ton. “This ad­min­is­tra­tion from Sec­ret­ary Clin­ton to Pres­id­ent Obama has re­peatedly un­der­es­tim­ated the threats that are faced by Amer­ica, has re­peatedly un­der­es­tim­ated our ad­versar­ies,” he told Dav­id Gregory on Meet the Press on Sunday. “It’s not taken the ac­tion ne­ces­sary to pre­vent bad things from hap­pen­ing. It has not used our in­flu­ence to do what’s ne­ces­sary to pro­tect our in­terests.”

When asked what the play­book against Clin­ton is, Rom­ney called her ten­ure as sec­ret­ary of State a “bust,” and said Clin­ton’s com­ments about the Bowe Ber­g­dahl swap were “clue­less.”

“She said “… these com­mandos don’t rep­res­ent a threat to the United States. Well, of course they do. And then she went on to say they only rep­res­ent a threat to Afgh­anistan and Pakistan. Are you kid­ding?” he said. “I think her clue­less com­ments about the Ber­g­dahl ex­change as well as her re­cord as the sec­ret­ary of State are really go­ing to be the found­a­tion of how a Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ate is able to take back the White House.”

Mitt Rom­ney will nev­er be pres­id­ent. He’ll nev­er be the cha­ris­mat­ic pop­u­list that his fath­er was. He’ll nev­er be as good at glad-hand­ing wait­resses and fact­ory work­ers as Joe Biden is (or Mike Hucka­bee, for that mat­ter). And he’s no longer the face of the GOP — pub­lic­ally, at least.

But quietly, he’s re­in­vent­ing him­self as something more power­ful and more cher­ished in mod­ern elec­tions. Mitt Rom­ney the fun­draiser may well have more power than Mitt Rom­ney the can­did­ate ever did. If you can’t be king, king­maker will do.

What We're Following See More »
FLOTUS OFFERS STRONG ENDORSEMENT OF CLINTON
Michelle Obama: “I Trust” Hillary Clinton
10 minutes ago
THE DETAILS

"In this election, and every election, it's about who will have the power to shape our children for the next four or eight years of their lives," Michelle Obama said. "There is only one person who I trust with that responsibility … and that is our friend Hillary Clinton." In a personal and emotional speech, Michelle Obama spoke about the effect that angry oppositional rhetoric had on her children and how she chose to raise them. "When they go low, we go high," Obama said she told her children about dealing with bullies. Obama stayed mostly positive, but still offered a firm rebuke of Donald Trump, despite never once uttering his name. "The issues a president faces cannot be boiled down to 140 characters," she said.

SANDERS BACKER CONFRONTS STUBBORN SANDERS SUPPORTERS
Sarah Silverman to Bernie or Bust: “You’re Being Ridiculous”
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Many Bernie Sanders delegates have spent much of the first day of the Democratic National Convention resisting unity, booing at mentions of Hillary Clinton and often chanting "Bernie! Bernie!" Well, one of the most outspoken Bernie Sanders supporters just told them to take a seat. "To the Bernie-or-bust people: You're being ridiculous," said comedian Sarah Silverman in a brief appearance at the Convention, minutes after saying that she would proudly support Hillary Clinton for president.

‘INEXCUSABLE REMARKS’
DNC Formally Apologizes to Bernie Sanders
5 hours ago
THE LATEST

The Democratic National Committee issued a formal apology to Bernie Sanders today, after leaked emails showed staffers trying to sabotage his presidential bid. "On behalf of everyone at the DNC, we want to offer a deep and sincere apology to Senator Sanders, his supporters, and the entire Democratic Party for the inexcusable remarks made over email," DNC officials said in the statement. "These comments do not reflect the values of the DNC or our steadfast commitment to neutrality during the nominating process. The DNC does not—and will not—tolerate disrespectful language exhibited toward our candidates."

Source:
STILL A ‘SAFE SEAT’
DCCC Won’t Aid Wasserman Schultz
5 hours ago
THE LATEST

The chairman of the DCCC said Debbie Wasserman Schultz won't be getting financial help from the organization this year, even as she faces a well-funded primary challenger. "Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) said the committee’s resources will be spent helping Democrats in tough races rather than those in seats that are strongholds for the party." Executive Director Kelly Ward added, “We never spend money in safe seats."

Source:
STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE TO FILL IN
Wasserman Schultz Won’t Gavel Open the Convention
8 hours ago
THE LATEST

Debbie Wasserman Schultz has given up her last remaining duty at this week's convention. Now, she's told her hometown newspaper, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, that she will not gavel in the convention today. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake will do the honors instead. "I have decided that in the interest of making sure that we can start the Democratic convention on a high note that I am not going to gavel in the convention," Wasserman Schultz said.

Source:
×