It’s possible that, one of these Novembers, a presidential loser will win the nomination again, as Richard Nixon did in 1968. Before that, Tom Dewey got a chance to lose a second time in 1948, and Adlai Stevenson in 1956. Hubert Humphrey came very close to winning in 1972. I’d say that Al Gore would have been a very viable candidate in 2004 or 2008, and that John Kerry could have had an excellent chance in 2008. So it could happen.
Romney lost in 2008 to Senator John McCain, a candidate for whom there was little enthusiasm among many Republicans. In 2012, he won in what is widely viewed as one of the weakest fields ever -- that's true even if we include less-than-stellar flameouts such as Haley Barbour and John Thune.
That 2012 group was mediocre for systematic reasons: the 2006 and 2008 Democratic blowouts left few strong potential candidates standing. But 2016 is different: The Republican landslide of 2010 has produced one of the deepest fields either party has had for some time. It’s true that the group lacks a true heavyweight; there are no former vice presidents, or anyone resembling Ronald Reagan going into 1980. While 2012 had Tim Pawlenty and the imploding fiasco of Rick Perry, 2016 has up to a dozen viable contenders, many of them with apparently excellent political skills. Sure, some will turn out to be Pawlenty-level duds (and maybe we’ll get to watch a Perry-level flameout). Some won’t even run. But in 2016, no one is going to win the Republican nomination by default.
Moreover, even though various candidates have flaws (Governor John Kasich on Medicaid expansion, Senator Marco Rubio on immigration), Romney continues to have all the flaws he’s always had: his late conversion on all sorts of issues, Romneycare, and more. Nor are we talking about someone who (like Nixon in the 1950s and 1960s, or Reagan in the 1970s) is a longtime leader of a large party group. The moderate mainstream conservatives who nominated Romney seemed to like him well enough, but there’s not much evidence they’ve ever thought of him as anything but the guy they settled for.
Oh, and don’t forget that Romney is 67 now, a problem even if Republicans weren’t planning to make Hillary Clinton’s age a campaign issue.
Technically, I suppose I would classify Mitt Romney as one more viable candidate for the nomination: he has conventional credentials, and he’s within his party’s mainstream on policy (and if he’s not, he could easily alter his views). But it just isn't going to happen.
And: Nice catch!
To contact the writer of this article: Jonathan Bernstein at Jbernstein62@bloomberg.net.
To contact the editor responsible for this article: Max Berley at firstname.lastname@example.org.