During the past week, there has been a most negative reaction in the media, including social media, among Republicans and conservatives against a possible Mitt Romney presidential candidacy. Most notable in this regard are last Thursday’s Wall Street Journal editorial, “Romney Recycled”, Politico’s article “Rupert Murdoch Weighs in on 2016, Calls Romney ‘A Terrible Candidate’ ” and National Review’s Henry Olsen column, “Nobody Expects The Romney Inquisition!”
Mitt Romney is a profoundly decent and charitable person who would have been a competent President of the United States. As a GOP presidential candidate against Barack Obama, however in 2012, Mitt Romney was a pathetically ineffective, out-of-touch candidate. There is no need for me to recount the top Romney gaffes of 2012 – Peggy Noonan has done that brilliantly in her January 16 Wall Street Journal column, “Don’t Do It, Mr. Romney.”
Yet there is one candidate who actually benefits from continued talk of a Romney candidacy. Despite perceptions to the contrary, that candidate is Jeb Bush.
The reason for that is simple. Romney is being compared by the media with Jeb more than any other candidate. Any comparison between the two candidates calls attention to one irrefutable fact: Jeb governed Florida as a staunch conservative, while Mitt governed Massachusetts as a left-of-center chief executive.
As governor of the Sunshine State, Jeb championed tax cuts, privatized state jobs, fought for school vouchers, won power over the judiciary, and labored to prolong the life of a brain-damaged woman, Terry Schiavo. This conservative record will be highlighted in any comparison with Romney’s Massachusetts tenure. The focus on the Jeb Bush record should go a long way in at least persuading movement conservatives that Jeb Bush is not a “closet moderate.”
By contrast, the Romney record in Massachusetts was distinguished by RomneyCare, including Mitt’s association of Jonathan Gruber of ObamaCare fame.
If Romney runs, he risks becoming the contemporary version of Harold Stassen, the former Governor of Minnesota who ran a competitive race against Thomas E. Dewey for the 1948 GOP presidential candidacy, then became thereafter a perennial losing candidate for the nomination. I hope that Mitt does not embarrass himself in a quixotic effort to become the GOP standard bearer one more time.
Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush. Under Governor Christie Whitman, he served as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.