Why Mitt Romney Will Soon be Gone and Forgotten
Nobody has any reason to keep him around.
Let me be more explicit – in the modern era, the political parties have not tended to keep around losing presidential candidates as party leaders. While Adlai Stevenson was perfectly able to run multiple times for President without being dumped by the party, that hasn’t happened with Al Gore or Bob Dole. Some failed Presidential candidates such as John Kerry or John McCain have retained a prominent party role, but mainly because they continued to hold significant positions of real power in the Senate, as well as completely intact regional power bases.
The best analogy for Mitt Romney is to imagine John Kerry but without his Senate seat. John Kerry was an unloved man in the Democratic Party in 2004 – there was no Kerryist faction. John McCain didn’t hold his own faction either, but he at least had a substantial reserve of personal popularity and recognition. With Kerry, the minute the election was over Democrats dropped the act and pretending to like him. Romney will be the same – he stood for nothing in his run and has no claim to leadership of any faction or philosophical principles. Had Santorum (improbably) won the nomination, it would not have been particularly surprising for him to remain prominent as a spokesman for Christian conservatism.
As the various factions of the party war with each other over the reason for the loss, Romney will lead none of the charges. The actual reasons for the loss are important, but for predictive purposes I think it’s more important what conventional party wisdom takes away from it. Whatever the balance of party opinion blames for the loss will be avoided next time. My guess is that most likely, the blame for the loss will be heaped entirely on him.
As a corollary from this becoming conventional wisdom, my basic expectation is for no major changes in the policy positions of the Republican Party. While everyone seems to expect that the GOP will now come out for immigration reform, Republican Party elites tried to do the exact same thing in 2006. It failed miserably after a conservative revolt. While observers glibly discuss, “how the GOP will move on immigration”, I promise that conservatives are gearing for war. Immigration, more than taxes or fiscal policy, seems like the actual most likely axis for the party to divide on. But predictions are hard, especially about the future. However, here is something I feel pretty confident predicting:
Mitt Romney was never a leader in the Republican Party, and he’s not going to become one.