Turns out Mitt Romney isn't running for president after all. After nearly a month of very publicly threatening to mount another White House bid, the twice-failed Republican candidate told supporters in a conference call on Friday that he has decided to let someone else give it a try this time.
"After putting considerable thought into making another run for president, I've decided it is best to give other leaders in the Party the opportunity to become our next nominee," he said, according to a transcription of his remarks published by radio host Hugh Hewitt. "I believe one of our next generation of Republican leaders, one who may not be as well known as I am today, one who has not yet taken their message across the country, one who is just getting started, may well emerge as being better able to defeat the Democrat nominee. In fact, I expect and hope that to be the case."
Clearly, this was the right choice, although it is curious that he thought he had the choice in the first place. As we pointed out when he first teased a 2016 run, Romney is terrible at running for president—that's why he lost twice, rather badly. For a while, it seemed like everyone taking Romney's third campaign seriously was suffering some sort of collective amnesia about the 2012 campaign, because Romney was really, really bad at being a candidate. His attempts to relate to the average American were so painful, it almost made you like him.
More damningly, Romney left America with the lasting impression that he was an out-of-touch rich dude with no conception of what life is like for Normals—this was the candidate who, despite endless attacks on his wealth, continued to say things like "I like being able to fire people," and "corporations are people"—not to mention that whole 47 percent thing. In short, he was the living, coiffed embodiment of the income gap.
Other Republicans realized this. Romney's flirtation with a third run was disparaged by a number of party leaders and influential conservatives, including the hallowed Wall Street Journal editorial page. "If Mitt Romney is the answer, what is the question?" the paper asked in an editorial earlier this month, going on to remind readers of just how badly Romney screwed up his last campaign. On Thursday, Iowa strategist David Kochel, who worked on both of Romney's campaigns, announced that he was jumping to Jeb Bush's team.
True to caricature, Romney himself seems to have been the last person to realize that no one wanted him run. Even as he bowed out Friday, he insisted that he probably could been an effective candidate. "I am convinced that with the help of the people on this call, we could win the nomination," he told supporters. "I also believe with the message of making the world safer, providing opportunity to every American regardless of the neighborhood they live in, and working to break the grip of poverty, I would have the best chance of beating the eventual Democrat nominee, but that is before the other contenders have had the opportunity to take their message to the voters."
Maybe Romney was right—maybe sometime between the 2012 presidential race and building a mansion in La Jolla, he came up with the magic formula to save the world. We'll never know. But his departure was welcomed by other Republican presidential hopefuls, particularly Jeb Bush and Chris Christie, his main rivals for support from the GOP establishment. According to the New York Times, Romney and Christie are scheduled to have dinner Friday night, a sign that he might be ready to throw his support behind the New Jersey governor. In the meantime, Bush, who had reportedly been needling Mitt to get out of the race, had much nicer things to say this morning.
"Mitt is a patriot and I join many in hoping his days of serving our nation and our party are not over," he wrote in a Facebook post on Friday."I look forward to working with him to ensure all Americans have a chance to rise up.
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