Mitt Romney is back. But he never really left.

January 25, 2013

Mitt Romney will be in Washington today for a reception in his honor, returning to the city where he’d hoped to be settling in as president right now.

While the former GOP nominee has maintained a very low profile since losing to President Obama, in many ways it doesn’t feel like he ever left the national stage. And not in a good way as his former allies and opponents alike just keep bringing him up in a less-than-flattering context.


(Jim Young/Reuters)

“Romney is becoming more of an admired figure and no one gets any applause for punching him,” said veteran Republican strategist Ed Rogers. “However, there is no Romney faction or Romney wing of the GOP that is keeping the flame alive. No one tailors their policies because it was what Romney supported in the 2012 campaign. No one feels like they need to be loyal to the 'Romney position' on any issue.”

For some Republicans, it’s been about more than policy. Budding 2016 GOP White House contenders have actively distanced themselves from Romney’s most controversial remarks -- including his infamous “47 percent” comment -- as they seek to reboot the party in the wake of a disappointing election.

“We must compete for every single vote — the 47 percent and the 53 percent, and any other combination that adds up to 100 percent,” said Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), in speech to the Republican National Committee on Thursday night.

Romney’s running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), made an implicit reference to the “47 percent” remark in a December speech. “Both parties tend to divide Americans into ‘our voters’ and ‘their voters.’ Let’s be really clear: Republicans must steer far clear of that trap. We must speak to the aspirations and anxieties of every American,” he said.

And at a gathering of Republican governors shortly after the election, Romney’s remark to donors that he’d lost due to Obama’s "gifts” to African Americans, Hispanics and young people drew strong rebukes.

It’s not just Republicans who've had Romney on their minds. Obama has referenced him, too, if only implicitly. At a press conference last week, Obama time and again referenced the 2012 election as a validation of his approach to governance.

The GOP wants to close the book on 2012 and begin anew with forceful arguments for their policies. As we’ve written before, part of the race to be rebuilder-in-chief involves running for the hills from the things that sunk Romney’s chances.

To be clear, this doesn’t mean that Republicans aren’t grateful to Romney for his 2012 effort. And it doesn’t mean that they don’t agree with a lot of what he advocated.

What it does reflect is a reality of politics. An “out with the old, in with the new” argument requires reminding people about, well, what’s old. (That's something perhaps Romney didn't do a good enough job of in 2012 when it came to George W. Bush's legacy.)

And in this case, that involves re-living Romney’s pitfalls.

Biden plays down assault weapons ban: Vice President Biden played down the importance of an assault weapons ban Thursday during a social media gathering.

"I'm much less concerned, quite frankly, about what you call an assault weapon than I am about magazines and the number of rounds that can be held in a magazine," Biden said in a Google Hangout that was billed as a "Fireside Hangout," according to NBC News.

Biden added: "More people out there get shot with a Glock that has cartridges in a (high-capacity magazine)."

Biden's words are important because, if he's on-message, they suggest the administration may narrow the focus of its gun control proposals. The assault weapons ban is perhaps the most politically difficult aspect of the package.

Several Democratic senators have balked at the idea of an assault weapons ban, even as it was being proposed Thursday by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

The White House is increasingly making its case to the American people rather than negotiating with lawmakers.

Fixbits:

The Senate on Thursday evening approved its filibuster reform package.

Unlike other Republicans, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was tough on Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) during Thursday's Secretary of State confirmation hearings.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates backs Hagel for his old post.

The Republican National Committee aims for better recruits.

Byron York says they should start with people like new North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R).

Freshman Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.) likely won't face a rematch after Gov. Dan Malloy (D) nominated her GOP opponent, Andrew Roraback, for a judgeship.

Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.) will seek a rematch with the woman who beat him in November, freshman Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-Calif.).

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) takes exception to Sen. Jeff Flake's (R-Ariz.) joke about subjecting Cuba to American spring breakers.

Former congressman Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) will make good on his promise to smoke marijuana after his state legalized it.

Must-reads:

"Marco Rubio Begins Conservative Talk Radio Charm Offensive" -- Jon Ward, Huffington Post

"Reince Priebus makes nice with Ron Paul forces" -- James Hohmann, Politico

"In one Army family, women in combat evokes two different perspectives" -- Greg Jaffe, Washington Post

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Sean Sullivan | January 24, 2013