Political Hay

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Mitt Romney?

‘Mitt must run’… but ‘Mitt can’t run.’ Here’s what to do.

By 8.22.14

Creative Commons/Flickr (Marc Nozell)
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He wuz robbed. Admit it, you neo-cons, paleo-cons, compassionates, country clubbers and decline-to-states: right now, in a just, moral, ordered universe, Mitt Romney should be President.

He was right on Iraq and Benghazi, right on healthcare, immigration, and Russia. But he was so mendaciously smeared that voters possessed the ludicrous mindset that Mitt didn’t “care about someone like me.” Feckless Republican operatives allowed data-mining splashed with voter fraud to seal the defeat.

Twenty months later, numerous polls indicate significant voter remorse. This genuine sentiment has naturally provoked calls of “Run, Mitt, Run!” But, to other Republicans still traumatized by a loss that didn’t have to happen, the grace and decency of the man are his ultimate disqualifiers for a coming 2016 cage match.

The positive argument for another run is, like the man, straightforward:

  • This is America — Everyone is supposed to have a Second Act.
  • He’s unquestionably qualified — In addition to having been right, Mitt continues to display leadership and an articulate grasp of the current worrisome events.
  • He’s popular — The polls say he can win.
  • Redemption — His victory would deliver fairness and closure while rinsing away the acrid taste of unnecessary defeat.

But the naysayers also have excellent arguments:

  • As Mitt is the first to point out, he’s already lost twice. America draws a paper-thin line between “determined” and “loser” — the difference between a Ronald Reagan and a Harold Stassen.
  • For Mitt to run now, after categorically stating that he wouldn’t, undermines one of his most attractive attributes — that of the congenitally honest straight-shooter.
  • Then, there’s the unfortunate CV item from Massachusetts: Just as the Apollo 13 capsule used the moon’s gravity to slingshot back to earth, Republicans need “Obamacare” to be the explosive negative force to hurtle — if not vomit — their candidates to victory. Easily revived, the false but effective comparison to “Romneycare” is an unnecessary and dangerous asteroid belt to yet again pass through.
  • Finally, there’s his religion and the problem some voters have historically had with it. Even though Mitt is currently polling remarkably well among those groups believed to have sat on their hands in 2012, the reticence to vote for a Mormon really can’t be re-quantified until the votes are in — when it’s too late.

When presented as a binary yes/no choice, the Republican Party has an insoluble problem. Announcement of a third Romney campaign — or not — is guaranteed to disappoint approximately half the true believers, thus undermining the general election.

Fortunately, there’s still a legitimate, credible finesse that can break the binary conundrum. With two strokes of the pen, the next President (who is not Mitt) can restore justice and deliver a modicum of vindication to both the Governor and his supporters without the angst of another political showdown. For the sake of both the Party and their own campaign, all potential Republican presidential candidates should affirm that, upon victory, their first cabinet decision will be to ask Mitt Romney to simultaneously head both the Treasury and HHS Departments.

Granted, it’s always tempting — and unrealistic — to play fantasy politics imagining one’s own Dream Team sitting around the cabinet table counseling the President. Six years ago, some prominent thinkers declared that the new administration’s cabinet would become, like the intellectually confident Abraham Lincoln’s choices, another “team of rivals.” That painfully unaware projection has long ago been dumped into the ash heap of historical speculation.

This “Super-Secretary” dual portfolio is no such fantasy. And neither would it be a “co-presidency” as Gerald Ford’s people cheekily envisioned for Ronald Reagan at the 1980 convention. Instead, the SuperSec assignment would allow Mitt to do what he knows and does best, arguably better than anyone on the planet: manage turnaround.

Mitt needs to turn around Obamacare into a market-based, consumer-friendly transparent system that takes care of the needy. He needs to turn around an economy whose disastrous previous eight years will only be understood in depth after today’s liars leave office. To use the currently fashionable but bloodless phrasing, these are “interdisciplinary” challenges.

As SuperSec, his method would be the polar opposite of this president’s claque of un-vetted, opaque, politicized “czars.” Rather, Mitt would approach the task using the rough-and-tumble of a public stock corporation, with goals, metrics, accountability, and communication. Can anyone doubt that at least some of his success at reincarnating the ’02 Winter Olympics was simply the change of management culture from the corrupt international sports bureaucracy to an American can-do MBA-ism?

In 2015, the center-right voter base needs to go to the polls knowing that, no matter what firebrand is at the top of the ticket, they’ll be getting best-in-class leadership on the critical domestic economic issues.

Will Mitt accept? He seems to enjoy his current balance of work and family. But, he’s a patriot. His ego is in check, atypical for a politician. He understands the urgency, and he’s man enough to report without rancor to his “boss,” the President.

The offer would not be a “do-over of 2012.” Rather, it would be an instruction to “do it like it’s never been done before.” If an enlightened, unthreatened President makes the offer, Mitt will be our first SuperSec. He won’t have a choice.

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About the Author
Judd Magilnick lives in exile in Santa Monica, California.