Ramesh Ponnuru is one of the best conservative writers around. He beats Josh Barro because (1) Ponnuru is an actual conservative and (2) he is, frankly, a better writer (but let’s give Barro a few years; he’s still young). That doesn’t mean I agree with him much. He is very conservative. But unlike most conservative writers, I believe that he is serious in thinking that conservative policy really is good for everyone and not just his class. As a result of this, I was not surprised when yesterday he wrote, Romney? Again? Please Stop.
His main argument for not bringing back Romney is that the Republican Party really needs a candidate who doesn’t so clearly despise the middle class. According to Ponnuru, especially given that the Democrats are likely to offer a candidate with a very long resume, the Republicans should offer a contrast. “That argues for a candidate who offers fresh ideas and a chance for the public to turn the page.” I agree: that would be a good thing to do. But who might that candidate be?
Today, another Reformish Republican, Reihan Salam was out with an article, Romney 2016! When Ryan Cooper put together his ratings of the conservative reformers, Reihan Salam scored almost as high as Ramesh Ponnuru. And his great idea as a reformer: Mitt Romney.
His argument is shockingly bad, but telling. First, he mentioned the preposterous contention made by Tagg Romney that his dad only ran in 2012 because there were no good candidates. Yeah right: it was altruism that caused Mitt Romney to run for president in 2012. Salam took this at face value and then argued that the Republican field is going to be bad in 2016 too. Hence: Mitt Romney needs to save his party again! (For an alternate theory, see Charlie Pierce, The Return Of The Speechwriter.)
As ridiculous as this notion is, there is something to it. I think it is that Salam knows that regardless of what happens, the Republican primary voters are not going to let anyone more reasonable than Romney get the nomination in 2016. And I think he’s right. That brings us back to Ponnuru’s idea of the Republicans running “a candidate who offers fresh ideas.” Even if the Republican Party had such a candidate (and they don’t), he would never get the nomination.
I think the Republican Party should go all in for 2016. It looks like the economy will hold and Hillary Clinton will get the Democratic nomination. If that’s the case, the Republican Party is sure to lose the general election that year. If I were part of the Republican establishment (and both Ronnuru and Salam are), I would recommend going with a firebrand like Ted Cruz. That way, the base could get their primary delusion out of their system. There wouldn’t be more rationalizations, “If we’d run a real conservative he’d have won!”
Salam made a shockingly bad comparison between Romney in 2016 and Reagan in 1980. If Ted Cruz lost badly in 2016, then that might open up 2020 for Romney. Maybe the appropriate comparison is between Romney in 2020 and Nixon in 1968. G Gordon Liddy is still kicking; maybe he could help Romney with that. Now he might offer some fresh ideas!
H/T: Ed Kilgore