Hillary Clinton’s truly horrible book tour stunned Democrats. The defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) rocked the GOP and the political commentariat. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney, the loser of the 2012 presidential campaign, has quietly risen in popularity and become the elder statesman of the Republican Party. His insight into Russia has proven prescient. His warnings about the Middle East have been sound. His track record in picking primary winners has been perfect (Jodi Ernst was the latest of his picks to win.) And his donor network may be the key to winning the GOP presidential nomination in 2016. Moreover, in retrospect, voters can appreciate that, while he lacked the populist touch, he was by any measure the more responsible and competent leader in 2012. Faults and all, he now earns the respect of Republicans and Democrats alike.
Compared with unhinged right-wing groups making money by stirring political anger, the Clintons’ nonstop money-making machine and the permanent political class inside the Beltway, he remains an admirable figure genuinely devoted to his party and country. It is not all about him.
The Post reports that Romney’s stock is now so high that donors are buzzing about a third presidential run:
The heightened interest in Romney among the business leaders, donors and policy wonks gathering in Park City[, Utah] this weekend speaks volumes about their anxiety at the disarray in the Republican Party. There is no clear 2016 front-runner, and there is deep doubt about the two leading establishment favorites.
Donors here said they fear New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is permanently damaged by the George Washington Bridge traffic scandal. And while many would back former Florida governor Jeb Bush, they believe he will not run.
Enter Romney, who stoked the speculation Friday by delivering a sweeping, campaign-style speech condemning President Obama’s foreign policy and serving up biting critiques of Clinton, the overwhelming favorite for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.
Despite the buzz, I see virtually no chance he will be a candidate in 2016. The party needs to move forward, with a new message and reform agenda. That said, he could well be a kingmaker and a voice of reason in a party blown this way and that by leadership setbacks and insurgent failures. He can be a voice of reason on foreign policy (and, in that regard, might explain to donors and voters alike why isolationism on the right is as bad as Obama-ism on the left). If the GOP is looking for interesting debate formats for 2016, a series of one-on-one interviews with Romney (akin to the Palmetto Freedom Forum, hosted in South Carolina in 2011) could be a substantive forum for candidates.
So for remaining a grown-up in the GOP, a sage voice on foreign policy and a potential kingmaker for 2016, we can say well done, Mr. Romney.