Former Governor Mitt Romney speaking at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, DC. Photo by Gage Skidmore. CC-BY-SA 2.0
Amidst an already crowded field in 2020, Mitt Romney is emerging as a surprising rival to President Trump. Does he think he has a shot to unseat a sitting president from his own party?
Mr. Trump who has signaled that he will run for re-election is of course a deeply controversial man.
Can someone say primary challenge?
Can someone recall retired Governor Ronald Reagan coming out of the West to take on the incumbent President Gerald Ford in 1976?
Can someone recall Edward Kennedy putting his family legacy on the line in 1980 and challenging the incumbent President Jimmy Carter?
Both men failed but ran competitive races and had large impacts on their parties.
The political world is lit up with speculation over the coming contest for the presidential nomination in the Democratic Party. Elizabeth Warren is forming an exploratory committee. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris were showcased in the Kavanaugh hearings which have come to be seen as the “first primary.” The performance of each however was spotty. Mr. Booker has been mocked for his “I am Spartacus’” moment which was just over a challenge committee rules and in any case was prior to the inflammatory sexual assault allegations. Ms. Harris at times confused people over her questioning which never seemed to get to pay dirt.
Someone has floated a Biden-Beto ticket or was it Beto-Biden? There’s also Bernie Sanders.
A writing team in the “New York Times” observes:
“The competition for the Democratic nomination is poised to be the most wide open since perhaps 1992. The party has no single leader, no obvious front-runner for 2020, and no broadly unifying ideology as it moves away from a quarter-century of dominance by the Clintons and Barack Obama.”
Other possible candidates include Senator Kirstin Gillibrand of New York, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. She showed up well in the “Kavanaugh primary” and was able to go on television to say that the Judge hadn’t been dignified in the hearing which was her party’s last attack against Kavanaugh. Ms. Klobuchar was able to work into the hearing that her own father was an alcoholic when she was questioning Kavanagh about his college drinking. If she makes it to the White House, she will join the ranks of Reagan and Obama, both of whose fathers were drunks.
Still another Democratic Senator who is mentioned as a possible candidate is Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Mr. Brown just won re-election despite Kavanaugh-like allegations that emerged:
In the late stages of Mr. Brown’s campaign a statement was released on behalf of a woman who wished to remain anonymous claiming that Mr. Brown made an “an unexpected, uninvited, unwanted, and sudden advance” on her, “roughly pushing her up against a wall” in the late-1980s. The statement went on: “It did stop after she expressed dismay and very firmly pulled away, explaining that was not her style nor why she was there. He then said he remembered what she had on the day they had met some time earlier and that he had been attracted to her.”
Like Mr. Kavanaugh, Mr. Brown has responded with great outrage, calling this “character assassination,” and threatening legal action during a political campaign. He didn’t have to do anything. No one cared or asked for an investigation.
There’s also mention of former Governor Steve Bullock of Montana, former Governor Terry McAuliffe of Virginia and Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon.
Hillary Clinton has not removed herself from consideration.
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg may run as an independent or a Democrat and, if so, has said that he is prepared to spend over $100 million of his own money.
Then on the GOP side there could be Mitt Romney.
He is a former Massachusetts who ran a close race in 2012 against President Obama and is the newly-minted Senator from Utah.
Running against Mr. Trump in GOP primaries would be an opportunity for Mr. Romney even if – like Mr. Reagan and Mr. Kennedy – he lost. Mr. Romney could use the opportunity to settle scores with Mr. Trump for past insults and to offer the GOP, an alternative more in line with past standard-bearers.
On January 1, Mr. Romney wrote about President Trump in the “Washington Post.” He said in part:
“It is not that all of the president’s policies have been misguided. He was right to align U.S. corporate taxes with those of global competitors, to strip out excessive regulations, to crack down on China’s unfair trade practices, to reform criminal justice and to appoint conservative judges. These are policies mainstream Republicans have promoted for years. But policies and appointments are only a part of a presidency.
“To a great degree, a presidency shapes the public character of the nation. A president should unite us and inspire us to follow “our better angels.” A president should demonstrate the essential qualities of honesty and integrity and elevate the national discourse with comity and mutual respect. As a nation, we have been blessed with presidents who have called on the greatness of the American spirit. With the nation so divided, resentful and angry, presidential leadership in qualities of character is indispensable. And it is in this province where the incumbent’s shortfall has been most glaring.”
We agree with much of that.
But Mr. Romney needs to realize one thing.
GOP voters in 2016 had apparently concluded that they needed someone like Mr. Trump that would fight back against Democratic attacks. They had seen themselves and mainstream candidates like George W. Bush, John McCain and Mr. Romney tarred as anti-woman (generally, for their views on abortion), felons, racists and even compared to Adolf Hitler. These scurrilities didn’t just come from talk-show radio, MSNBC or the swamps of the Internet but from sitting Senators, Members of Congress and DNC leaders – and even Joseph Biden and Jimmy Carter on occasion.
So the GOP voters faced with a crowded field in 2016 (Like the Democrats in 2020) broke toward with a New York City rabble-rouser whom they knew would answer in in-kind.
Are Republican voters ready to switch back?
We doubt it.
But Mr. Romney could scramble things.
We’ll see – and we can probably count on Mr. Romney to have never known anyone like Stormy Daniels.