The Netflix documentary Mitt ought to be required viewing for American voters, and particularly the low-information types who cast their ballots for Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election. Mitt chronicles the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, and in it one can see the effects a long and grueling presidential campaign can have on a candidate and his family.
One can also see the chasm between who a man really is and what he’s portrayed to be by his political opponents and the media. The Romney in Mitt is a man America would happily choose as its president: successful in business, faithful to God, blessed with family, easygoing with friends, and possessed of the intelligence and skill to serve in a high executive role. He’s funny and down to earth. The Romney clan is straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting.
He’s a man you can root for.
Why, then, was Romney also the out-of-touch plutocrat who found a way to lose what many on the right thought was an unloseable election? That’s the question which must be answered by those who are now pining for a third bite at the electoral apple for the former Bain Capital CEO.
There’s a scene in Mitt where Romney tells the workers in his Boston campaign headquarters after losing the 2012 election that to an extent he had to “steal the nomination” because the GOP is southern, conservative, and populist, while he’s a rich moderate from the Northeast. While some would call that an unnecessary surrender to a liberal premise, it’s also a key reason why Romney failed to turn out the three or four million conservative voters he needed.
On one level, this sentiment for Romney Part Three can be seen as desperation on the part of a GOP establishment which is rapidly losing power among its base voters. After all, Romney was the overwhelming choice of the party’s insiders and K Street crowd in 2012, and yet he still struggled to put away the GOP nomination against a crowded but ultimately uninspiring field.
Things have only become worse between the GOP’s conservative voters and the big-money insiders since then. The savage treatment of Ted Cruz and other conservatives during and after the government shutdown last year, the loss of a winnable gubernatorial seat by Ken Cuccinelli in Virginia (complete with accusations that with more support from the party he could have prevailed), and the appalling corruption of the establishment in saving the Mississippi GOP primary for Thad Cochran over Tea Party challenger Chris McDaniel have only widened the chasm between the factions.
As a result, the likely moderate candidates in the 2016 race look unelectable—Chris Christie for his unnecessarily combative statements and whiff of corruption, and Jeb Bush for his support of amnesty and backing of Common Core. With Christie and Bush appearing unacceptable, 2016 might be the first year where the Republican electoral dynamic is turned on its head; rather than the base having to choose the most palatable option among establishment candidates, the establishment will have to stomach someone whose political roots spring from something closer to the Tea Party.
Romney is therefore the last gasp of the establishment—and that makes the prospect of a “third time’s the charm” result for him even less likely.
There is a Mitt Romney who already would be president, sadly. President Romney would have been the man who outplayed Barack Obama in 2012.
Presented with a blitz of TV ads making the outrageously stupid claim that he was responsible for a Kansas City steelworker’s wife dying of cancer because of a plant closing in which Bain Capital played a role, President Romney would have taken the opportunity to destroy Obama’s chief means of attack. President Romney would have ensured the American people knew that, in contrast to the out-of-touch plutocrat Obama and the media wanted to paint him as, he had given more money to charity than Obama has ever earned. President Romney would have gone so far as to make sure that at every campaign stop he brought one of his fellow out-of-touch plutocrat friends to descend upon a Ronald McDonald house or homeless shelter or some other charitable facility to very publicly “make it rain,” and in the obligatory mugging for local TV cameras he’d say something like:
Is having my friend Mr. Warbucks donate $200,000 to the Greater Roanoke Center For Poor Kids a shameless campaign trick? Sure. We’re running for president. Everything you do is in pursuit of positive publicity. But that man in the White House is running TV ads suggesting I’m out of touch with regular folks, and I can tell you I’ve been all over this country in the last year and I’ve talked to tens of thousands of people. I’m as in touch as you can imagine, and my heart is broken over all the suffering I see in Obama’s America.
So this campaign will be about helping to relieve that suffering. We will give to and raise money for charity everywhere we go, because win or lose we’re going to try to help people who need it. And we’re going to show that there’s a better way to help the poor than to have the government rob the people who make the country work and forcibly redistribute their wealth.
President Romney also wouldn’t have stayed quiet when CNN’s Candy Crowley took it upon herself to save Obama from the political effects of his incompetence and lies over the Benghazi attack. President Romney would have offered something like: “Candy…what are you doing? I didn’t come here to debate you, I’m here to debate him. Let the presidential candidates talk.”
And then he would have demanded Obama account for the five appearances by Susan Rice on the Sunday shows following the massacre in which Rice infamously blamed a YouTube video for a military-style al Qaeda attack occurring on September 11, of all days.
A President Romney also would have reminded Obama of his words at the UN: “The future must not belong to those who would insult the Prophet of Islam.” He would have demanded that Obama explain to America how that wasn’t an attempt to blame the YouTube video for Benghazi in front of the entire world.
Unfortunately, we only met President Romney in that glorious first debate, after which he disappeared, leaving the country to wither under Obama’s misrule for the next four years.
Republican voters can’t count on the re-emergence of President Romney. As a result, we’re more than satisfied with wishing the guy in Mitt had won…and moving on to give someone else a chance.