Opinion: Columnists

Like Cleveland, Mitt Romney may be on a comeback

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Opinion,Hugh Hewitt,Columnists,Vice President,Ohio,2016 Elections,Campaigns,Mitt Romney,Cleveland

7/11 is the day LeBron came back to Cleveland.

Every time I pass a 7-Eleven store I'll think of basketball's greatest talent's decision to go home to northeast Ohio, and smile. Thanks to the Cleveland Indians' Nick Swisher for showing Lebron the way by leaving the Yankees for the Tribe in 2013, demonstrating that a professional athlete at the peak of his career can choose a small market for reasons other than endorsements and audience.

The emotional impact of the decision on Northeast Ohio has been best described by America's finest sports writer, the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Terry Pluto. Google him on 7/11 for a genuine understanding of this "slay the fatted calf moment" in the Buckeye State.

And thanks to the GOP and Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus for selecting the city by the lake to host the Classic Rock Convention in 2016. Shrewd, shred move for reasons I have written about in this space before. Make your reservations now for Pickwick & Frolic on East 4th. This accessible, easily walked city will be a terrific host, especially coming off back-to-back-to-back World Series, Super Bowl and NBA Championship wins.

But who will capture the momentum the city is enjoying and give the closing speech in late June or mid-July as the GOP convention comes to a close? Bill O'Reilly stunned a lot of people this week by reporting that Mitt Romney is at least listening to his vast circle of donors and supporters to reconsider the "no, no, no, no, no" answer, which is all I have heard him say. Repeatedly.

But O'Reilly's statement made me think Team Romney must be courted by the contenders. The same day LeBron announced his return to Ohio, I interviewed Sen. Marco Rubio in his home state of Florida for an hour. (The audio and transcript are posted at HughHewitt.com). Rubio displays an impressive grasp of foreign affairs and in a speech that night to the Alliance Defending Freedom audience, brought a crowd of nearly a thousand to its feet before, during and after his remarks. This audience is devoted to religious liberty, is cheered by the Hobby Lobby decision, fights for federalism to prevail on marriage, and for the unborn.

Rubio also works to distinguish himself from the elements within the base suspicious of robust internationalism, noting especially that our economy cannot divorce itself from the world, nor our Navy from protecting the sea lanes, nor our military from responding to the real threats posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the border crisis, or a surging China or resurging Russia.

Of course Rubio is orthodox conservative Reagnite on matters economic, on the urgency of regulatory reform, the reform of our crazy corporate tax structure, and of the overhaul of entitlements as well as immigration, beginning first with the border.

Rubio's biggest hurdle is that he is a senator, not a governor. His years running the Florida House count a bit against this hurdle, but with governors Chris Christie, John Kasich, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, Rick Snyder and Scott Walker possibly in the field, how to overcome this bias in favor of executive experience?

Don't be surprised when Rubio, or Sens. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul start talking about Vice President Mitt Romney as a first term second-in-command. The candidates that take this tack, if any, should emphasize "one term" so as to freeze every ambitious GOP player into their full-support mode post 2016 with an eye on the 2020 ticket. A few such mentions will bring plenty of money and support and the advice of an experienced team of friends and donors from the orbit of the 2012 nominee.

If Mitt Romney really isn't running, that is. More on that next week.

Hugh Hewitt is a nationally syndicated talk radio host, law professor at Chapman University's Fowler School of Law, and author, most recently of The Happiest Life. He posts daily at HughHewitt.com and is on Twitter @hughhewitt.
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