Opinion

Mitt Romney is no Richard Nixon

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Philip Klein,2012 Elections,2016 Elections,John McCain,Richard Nixon,Mitt Romney,JFK

Mitt Romney is no Richard Nixon -- and that's actually bad news for the small group of people hoping to make a Romney presidential run in 2016 happen.

Over at Politico, a former member of Romney's team, Emil Henry, tried to make the case for another Romney presidential run. But his piece reflects the same sort of delusional thinking that lead many in the Romney camp to argue he would beat President Obama in 2012, despite a flood of polls in key swing states that suggested otherwise.

Romney backers have been recently floating the idea of another presidential run. As Henry noted, the topic was discussed at the "E2 Summit, Romney’s now-annual retreat for high-profile politicians, policymakers, innovators, entrepreneurs, business leaders, top bundlers and, of course, a core group of long-time Romney loyalists."

I'm shocked that a conference of Romney's inner network would think he could make such a run.

Surprisingly, the article cites as good news for Romney a Quinnipiac poll finding "45 percent of voters said the United States would be better off today with Romney as president." But that's actually lower than the 47 percent who voted for him in 2012. Furthermore, the same Quinnipiac poll found Obama's approval rating at 40 percent and his disapproval at 53 percent. So even in a terrible poll for Obama, Romney is polling below his presidential vote percentage -- and there are a subset of Americans who disapprove of Obama but still don't think the nation would be better off with Romney.

The Henry piece relied heavily on Nixon's political comeback in the 1968 presidential election after losing in 1960. But what he fails to point out is that Nixon lost one of the closest presidential races in American history. Though Kennedy did beat him in the electoral college 303 to 219, that obscures the closeness of the race. Kennedy carried eight states representing 101 electoral votes by 2 percentage points or less. Illinois was decided by fewer than 9,000 votes out of roughly 4.8 million cast in the state. Nixon ended up losing the popular vote to John F. Kennedy by less than two-tenths of one percent, and there was a belief among many Republicans that Nixon was robbed by Kennedy operatives in Texas and Illinois. (Note, I'm not attempting to re-litigate the 1960 election, but just noting that the sense that he was robbed in the general election helped Nixon get a second chance.)

None of this applies in Romney's case. He proved himself to be a terrible presidential candidate, barely able to improve upon Sen. John McCain's performance in the 2008 election, despite Obama being in a much weaker position. Romney lost the popular vote by nearly 4 percentage points, and other than Florida (and Ohio, if we're stretching), he wasn't really close in the swing states.

Henry also makes a few other arguments straight out of fantasy land. "Romney is re-emerging as the de facto leader of the Republican Party," he wrote. Seriously? When was the last time an elected Republican, GOP candidate, or conservative activist said to themselves, "I wonder what Mitt Romney thinks on this issue" before taking a position?

"When Republicans don’t hold the presidency, they tend to nominate 'the guy who last ran' (think Nixon ’68, Reagan ’80, Dole ’96, McCain ’08 and Romney ’12) and reject newcomers not yet tested at the presidential level," Henry wrote. But in every one of those examples — save Nixon — candidates lost prior Republican primaries — they didn't lose general elections. Again, see above for why the Nixon comparison doesn't hold water.

But Henry saved the best for last. He wrote, "All failed nominees other than Romney were career politicians.Where Romney stands out versus every failed nominee of the last half century is that he, a lifelong businessman with just one successful four-year stint as governor of Massachusetts, is not a career politician."

It's almost adorable that Romney loyalists want to perpetuate this canard when talking about a man who first ran for U.S. Senate 20 years ago, and who has since served as governor and run for president twice. Even if true, however, it's not clear what this has to do with anything. Romney tried to run as the businessman against an incumbent during a weak economy, and the message flopped. Why the same message would somehow propel his comeback is beyond comprehension outside of the Romney bubble.

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