Playing Catch with a Mitt
04-02-2009
I know there is still a lot of time for circumstances to change before the next presidential election cycle begins, but it sure seems like Mitt Romney is laying the groundwork for another shot at the nomination. You can read more about his latest party headlining gig here. I recall last fall that Romney suggested he would not be likely to try again, but I always assumed those comments were more a function of your typical candidate burnout at the end of a long losing primary slog than of anything else.
 
You’ll remember that Romney was the favorite punching bag for a number of the other Republican candidates, especially John McCain. But now it seems like minus the constant attacks from his colleagues, Romney is starting to feel like a potential leader of the party again. He is still a big fundraising draw, and he certainly has the resources to carefully lay the organizational groundwork necessary for a run over the next few years.
 
But there are still a few big questions surrounding his candidacy. In general, it has always seemed to me that candidates get one really good shot at the nomination, and then the party usually moves on to some new faces. Although I can’t find the quote at the moment, I’m pretty sure Romney acknowledged this very point last fall. It’s a function of the intensity of the campaign news cycle that retread candidates often feel like damaged goods to voters. McCain was a bit of an exception, but even he had to wait eight years to try again. Romney may encounter this phenomenon once the next campaign commences, but at this point his party still seems pleased to have him around to raise money.
 
The other big question is whether Romney will again be slowed by the criticism that he is a “Johnny-come-lately” to social conservatism. This argument dogged him throughout the last campaign, and could very well pose a problem for him again. While the country’s current focus on the economy fits well with Romney’s expertise, the party’s base will inevitably want to talk social issues once the next primary season is underway. In addition, his Mormonism has always been an unspoken wildcard among some religious conservatives. But for now, Romney seems pretty energized to still be in the thick of Republican politics.


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