By MARSHA MERCER
Oh, Mitt, they need you.
No, not the out-of-touch, loser Mitt Romney of 2008 and 2012.
What they want is the new and improved Mitt, version 2016, who would connect with voters by showing his compassion and his competence. And maybe his sense of humor. That, anyway, is the hope of establishment Republicans who have been trying for months to persuade Romney to make his third bid for the White House.
“Run, Mitt, run!” supporters chanted in Iowa last Monday.
As always with political nostalgia, the boomlet for Romney says more about current discontent than a true longing for the past. Romney is the Republicans’ national leader, and he looks positively statesmanlike next to, say, Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Showing their compassion, the Romneys will raise $50 million for the just announced Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases, which will bring 200 scientists together to study multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s and other diseases. Ann Romney, 65, was diagnosed with MS in 1998; it is in remission. The center is scheduled to open in 2016 in Boston.
Even so Romney, 67, is an odd choice as the GOP’s next big thing. He was a terrible presidential candidate.
To recap, Romney in 2012 lost women, 18- to 29-year-olds, African American, Hispanic and Asian voters to President Barack Obama. Romney’s fan base was whites, people 45 and older and especially those 65 and above. Romney barely won college educated voters, but Obama took the post-graduate school set.
Romney’s defenders blame his advisers and insist voters never saw the real Romney. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., Romney’s running mate in 2012, says he will forgo his own presidential run next time if Romney tries again.
“Third time’s the charm,” Ryan says.
For now, Romney is generating buzz by saying he’s not planning to run for president. His wife also says he has no plans to run. She told the Los Angeles Times the family is “done, done, done” with presidential campaigns.
But Ann Romney told The Washington Post, “Honestly, we’ll have to see what happens.” Romney himself recently conceded that “circumstances can change.” Aha!
Romney says he learned a lot from 2012, particularly that anything he says may wind up on the front page. At a Florida hotel in May 2012, he thought he was speaking only to donors at a closed fundraiser when he disparaged the “47 percent” of the electorate who are dependent on government, pay no income taxes and will vote for Obama “no matter what.” Mother Jones later obtained the video and put it online – where it lives in perpetuity.
Given that the video will live forever, consideration of Romney for 2016 has an air of desperation: Who else could stop a kook like Rand Paul or Ted Cruz in the GOP primaries? Who else might stop the Hillary Clinton juggernaut?
Jeb, of course. If former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush decides to run, the pressure on Romney to run could evaporate. Bush also hasn’t decided whether he’s in, although he now says his wife is supportive and his mother has moved to neutral.
To prove he’s not running for office, Romney actually told a joke the other day. Advisers always tell candidates to avoid jokes. Here it is:
“President Obama went to the bank to cash a check, and he didn’t have his ID. And the teller said, `You’ve got to prove who you are.’
“He said, `How should I do that?’ She said, `The other day Phil Mickelson came in; he didn’t have his ID but he set up a little cup on the ground, took a golf ball, putted it right into that cup so we knew it was Phil Mickelson. We cashed his check.’
“`And then Andre Agassi came in and...didn’t have his ID either. He put a little target on the wall, took a tennis ball and racquet, hit it onto that target time and again. We knew that was Andre Agassi, so we cashed his check.’
“And she said to him, `Is there anything you can do to prove who you are?’
“And [Obama] said, `I don’t have a clue.’
“And she said, `Well, Mister President, do you want your money in small bills or large bills?’”
The crowd loved it. Meet the new Mitt. What a card.
© 2014 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.