At long last, Mitt Romney has triumphed over Barack Obama


Romney, center, greets supporters during a rally for Joni Ernst. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

SEE ALSO: At long last, Hillary Clinton has triumphed over Barack Obama

New York's Jonathan Chait offered his congratulations on Thursday, not prematurely: "President Romney Basks in Latest Triumph." Chait's point, lightly outlined, is an interesting one. President Obama has been effective at enacting Romney policies, even as Romney becomes the party leader that Democrats aren't interested in having Obama be.

The policies

Chait was riffing on the upcoming announcement of proposed new regulations on carbon dioxide emissions by the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA is run by Gina McCarthy who, prior to working for the EPA, worked for then-Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

A 2011 National Journal article dubbed her Romney's"green quarterback," helping to develop the state's climate change response plan and working on the regional carbon dioxide trading program that some think will serve as a model for the new EPA rules. Now as administrator, she'll get a chance to finish the work she began under Romney.

There's another policy that Obama adopted from Romney, too — something about healthcare. Can't quite remember what that was about.

Romney also spent a bit of energy earlier this year noting that his at-the-time-derided claim that Russia was a key geopolitical foe was bolstered with Putin's picking off Crimea and hassling Ukraine. While he was in the enviable position of not having to actually do anything about it, Romney tallied a mark or two on the scoreboard.

His most recent administrative victory? Calling for the resignation of Eric Shinseki, which happened this morning, perhaps for reasons unrelated to Romney.

There's a critical caveat to the first two examples that we can't skip over: They predate the 2012 Mitt Romney who wanted to repeal Obamacare and joked about fighting climate change during the Republican convention. (His climate enthusiasm didn't even survive his one gubernatorial term unscathed.) There's a left-right Venn diagram in which both Romney and Obama hover at the outer edges of the overlapping part, clearly. If circa-2004 Romney could see the work of circa-2014 Obama, he'd be pleased.

The politics

It's particularly interesting to watch Romney step into a role as a leader of the Republican Party. Last month, we wrote about Romney's reemergence on the campaign trail, backing, at that point, 16 different Republican candidates.

The winners of presidential elections assume the mantle of party leaders and tour the country on behalf of the party's candidates. Obama's too unpopular to help much in that regard. As a Republican pollster put it to NBC News in March, Obama has been "taken off the field as a Democratic positive" thanks to his low poll numbers.

The losers of presidential elections, on the other hand, either go back to their old jobs or go out to pasture. But with a fractured Republican party and with a healthy bank account, Romney has been able to step into the void.

On Thursday, Real Clear Politics tallied Romney's record on 2014 primary endorsements. "So far this year," the site's Scott Conroy and Caitlin Huey-Burns write, "he has endorsed candidates in a half-dozen GOP primaries — and all six have won." Conroy and Huey-Burns point out that he'll probably stumble once the California primary rolls around.

He'll likely get a win next week, as an early endorser of Joni Ernst in Iowa's Republican senate primary. Romney's in the state today, encouraging Iowa voters to go vote for Ernst. It's the sort of thing you expect the party leader to do.

What more could Romney want? Political influence, the enactment of one-time policy goals, vindication on foreign policy with none of the accountability. Who actually won in 2012, anyway?

Philip Bump writes about politics for The Fix. He previously wrote for The Wire, the news blog of The Atlantic magazine. He has contributed to The Daily Beast, The Atlantic, The Daily, and the Huffington Post. Philip is based in New York City.
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Philip Bump · May 30