Bloomberg and the Des Moines Register just released the first tidbit from their new Iowa Poll — timing! — and the result says plenty about why Mitt Romney announced Friday that he won’t run for president again.
That 40 percent unfavorable rating, we would emphasize, is among Republicans. You simply don’t often see that kind of resistance to a member of your own party — especially your party’s most recent presidential nominee! — unless he or she has real liabilities — like a scandal.
(The poll also showed 45 percent of people said they didn’t want Romney to run again; but we think that actually says less than the 40 percent figure above.)
No, Iowa was never Romney’s strongest state — or anything close to it — and he was only able to compete there in 2012 because the field was so crowded and the winner took less than 25 percent of the vote.
But the new Iowa Poll is symptomatic of Romney’s biggest problem heading into a 2016 bid: He still wasn’t popular. As we noted earlier this month, almost every public poll conducted in recent months showed Romney’s personal image didn’t get any better since 2012. And almost every one showed his unfavorable rating higher than his favorable rating.
And, that was just as Romney was first dipping his toe back in the presidential waters. What followed was plenty of second-guessing as to why the GOP would nominate Romney again (especially with Jeb Bush running) and incredulity over Romney saying his new campaign would be focused on poor people and on making Romney appear more “authentic” — perhaps his two biggest problems in 2012.
Romney’s strength was always his popularity among the GOP establishment, which saw far more potential than their candidate displayed in 2012. Bush’s entry, though, severely cut into the desire for Romney to run again.
From there, he had to believe there was a real desire among grassroots Republicans to nominate him again. And while some early polls showed him leading a bunch of lesser-known Republicans, Romney’s poor image was always going to be tough for him to overcome. Which seems to be what he came to realize.