This post has been updated.
Paul the Octopus — animal oracle of the 2010 World Cup — did not survive long enough to pick the winners in Brazil this year. The tournament's host country picked a sea turtle as his successor. His competition in the crowded field of omniscient animals include a guinea pig from the Netherlands, two macaws named Serge and Oscar, Nelly the German elephant and a psychic bulldog from the United Kingdom.
No such tradition for paranormal prediction has caught on for American politics, and it seems imprudent to think it will during the midterms. Why rely on a lion or tiger or bear for your election predictions when you can conscript the prophesying skills of Mitt Romney? The former presidential candidate has been busy during the primary season, picking favorites in some of the most important party infighting of the year. And, about halfway through the midterms, all of his endorsements have led to victories at the polls, as other news organizations have noticed.
Last week, he endorsed Nevada state senator Mark Hutchison in the Nevada lieutenant governor primary — a race he won. One week earlier, Joni Ernst, whom he endorsed in the Senate primary in Iowa, and Neel Kashkari, whom he endorsed in the California governor race, both won. On May 20, Monica Wehby won the Republican primary after a Romney endorsement. Romney also picked winners in the North Carolina Senate race and House races in Idaho, Pennsylvania and California.
This is an example of correlation not equaling causation. These candidates aren't winning because of Romney's adapted Midas touch. He is just proving a knack for knowing what's on voters' minds — and the minds of those who spend money trying to influence voters. (The Chamber of Commerce's winning primary picks this year closely follow Romney's.) It's a knack for choosing winners he'd like to cement before the 2016 Republican primaries finally roll around, if the tea leaves scattered around his GOP summit this weekend are to be believed.
NBC News reported on Friday that Romney told reporters, "As someone who has run and has served, I would like to be able to, if you will, push our party and our nominees toward the positions that I think are the most effective for the country."
In other words, Romney is hoping that the party remembers his clairvoyance in a year or two.
However, it's a good time to remember that Romney's ability to fine-tune a candidate's platform in an effective way during a Republican primary is already known by the Republican Party. Among a handful of candidates — many with remarkably similar views on policy — in the 2012 Republican presidential primary, Mitt Romney knew how close he needed to stand to the right and how much he needed to charm the establishment in order to win. It's a balance that several of his endorsed candidates in 2014 have struck well — perhaps most notably Thom Tillis, the conservative state legislator who won over the chamber.
Romney's ability to pick general election winners, however, has yet to be tested — as does the Chamber of Commerce's. According to the Sunlight Foundation, 6.9 percent of the money the Chamber spent in 2012 went to winning candidates.
In the upcoming weeks, there's a good chance that Romney's election bracket will continue to beat everyone else's. Next week, Romney-endorsed Elise Stefanik will vie for a chance to replace Democratic Rep. Bill Owens in New York's District 21. She has also received support from Paul Singer, the megadonor who gave mega donations in support of Romney in 2012. He has endorsed incumbent Rep. Mike Coffman in Colorado, and the challenger to tea party incumbent Kerry Bentivolio in Michigan's 11th District.
There's no doubt that he'll continue to support at least a few primary winners, but we won't learn whether the GOP will be likely to greet Romney as clairvoyant-in-residence until November. If they win, the buzz that met Romney — who has signaled, several times, that he's not interested in trying the presidential-run thing again — this weekend as the leader (or leading chooser) the party wants and deserves will likely continue to hum. If not, the Republican Party may reach the similar conclusion they've considered in previous election cycles: that moderating isn't the answer.
Red State's Erick Erickson wrote after Romney lost the 2012 election, "Just please, GOP, PLEASE — in four years let’s not go with the “he’s the most electable” argument. The most electable usually aren’t."
Whether Romney can prove him wrong in November could nudge the party, once again, toward the Simpsons and the Stefaniks or the Brats and the Bentivolios.
Correction: A previous version of this post mentioned that Dan Sullivan had endorsed Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential election. This is true, but a different Dan Sullivan in Alaska politics is running in the senate primary this year. We regret the error and will remember that Alaska politics are teemed with Dan Sullivans.