It's been a while since we had a new thread for discussing the next Iowa caucus campaign. Most of the action lately has been on the Republican side, but any comments about the presidential race are welcome in this thread. Here are some links to get the conversation started.
Mitt Romney confirmed last week that he may launch a third campaign for the presidency, even though he had previously ruled out another bid on many occasions. He leads some early polls of Republicans, but with 20 percent support or less--not impressive for someone with his level of name recognition. I can't imagine why Republicans would ever nominate him again, or how anyone in his inner circle can believe he has a chance. Maggie Haberman and James Hohmann shed some light on that subject in "The selling of Mitt 3.0," which you should read in full. After the jump I've enclosed a few excerpts from that piece and from John Dickerson's report for Slate. Apparently some people believe that with better messaging and no incumbent president to face, Romney has a decent shot. Sounds delusional to me. Romney still has all the baggage from his last campaign. His dire predictions about the economy have proven false. Surely many of his donors and grassroots supporters will be looking for a new candidate, such as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie or former Florida Governor Jeb Bush or even former Texas Governor Rick Perry.
Maybe The Onion was right after all in this 2012 report: "Mitt Romney Terrified What Will Happen If He Ever Stops Running for President."
Also on the establishment wing of the GOP, Jeb Bush has stepped down from various corporate and non-profit boards and started raising money for his new leadership PAC. Bush will have a well-funded campaign and is more electable than many of the other potential candidates, but I don't see him as a strong contender for the Iowa caucuses. The four issues Eric Pianin identified here (Common Core, immigration, taxes, and Obamacare) will all be deal-breakers for the conservative activists who tend to show up on caucus night.
Seeking to cash in early on anti-Jeb sentiment, some conservatives have formed a PAC and created an "EndJeb2016" website. Sounds like a fundraising and list-building scheme to me (a la Ready for Hillary), as opposed to an effort to run a real campaign against Bush in the GOP primaries.
Romney's 2012 running mate Paul Ryan, the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, said this week that he will not seek the presidency in 2016. He would be a fool to try when the field is already crowded, and he can afford to wait another four or eight years.
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee quit hosting his weekly show on Fox News, saying he can't rule out another presidential bid and will make a final decision this spring. Huckabee has a huge grassroots following in Iowa, and his entry to the race would greatly complicate matters for the likes of former Senator Rick Santorum or Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. Santorum is promising to run "a very, very different candidacy than the last time around," but for quite some time, many of his Iowa supporters have been looking at fresher faces like Ted Cruz or Ben Carson. Craig Robinson described Huckabee as the "first love" of Iowa social conservatives. Jamie Johnson, who worked on Santorum's 2012 campaign here, told David Weigel last week,
"I can tell you, I took Rick Santorum across the state three years ago," Johnson says. "People loved Huckabee. They liked Santorum. There was never a heart connection between them and Santorum the way there'd been for Huckabee."
Jindal was just in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids to meet privately with pastors. I can't see him putting together a winning campaign in Iowa or anywhere else. Why should people support him when he's not even popular in his (conservative) home state?
My pick to win the Iowa caucuses, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, has selected a likely campaign manager and will soon launch some kind of PAC. GOP activists here will appreciate that Walker took on public sector unions, refused to expand Medicaid, and doesn't support comprehensive immigration reform. But they won't react well if they learn that he put the brakes on efforts to pass a "right to work" law.
UPDATE: Forgot to mention that Senator Rand Paul hired a presidential campaign manager this week. I still think he will bail out of the race in time to run for re-election to the U.S. Senate in 2016. Kentucky law doesn't allow him to be on the ballot for two offices in the same primary election.
From "The selling of Mitt 3.0" by Maggie Haberman and James Hohmann in Politico:
Romney allies have also insisted to the former Massachusetts governor, and he has echoed in conversations he's had, that the main reason he lost in 2012 was that he was running against an incumbent president, and that he would have an easier path in 2016. In 2012, Romney veered well to the right to win over primary voters, moves many believe cost him in the general - but he has scoffed in private conversations at Bush's insistence that he won't do the same in order to win the nomination. [...]
Bush and Romney already are calling many of the same donors and operatives, in some cases within hours of each other, to make their pitch, round up support and lay claim to staff. Romney has also called at least two key officials in the early primary state of New Hampshire, former Sen. Judd Gregg and his successor, current Sen. Kelly Ayotte, sources said.
Advisers mulling over a 2016 Romney redux also hope the campaign will be smarter about spending. "Institutionally, they could raise the same amount as last time," a senior Romney alum said. "But, by having a team that knows where the pitfalls are, we could be 30 percent more efficient."
Another senior adviser who just spent time with Romney described him as genuinely relaxed and much looser than during the marathon of the 2012 campaign, but that he appears "very serious" about running again. The adviser said Romney is not as worried about money and support materializing as the coverage of the last few days suggests.
"His assumption is, if he decides to run, a lot of that stuff will come online," the adviser said.
From "Why Romney Wants to Run" by John Dickerson in Slate:
Last Friday in a meeting with donors, Romney wanted to send a signal to stop the commitments to Bush and buy himself some time. [...]
His message intended to freeze donors also created pressure to move. Romney supporters say they have received a very positive response and the once and future candidate is now trying to capitalize on that. The 67-year-old Romney has called supporters and staffers from his last campaign in key states such as New Hampshire and Iowa to see how many have defected to Bush and to see if he could rebuild the machinery to run again. Those who have talked to him say a decision could come within 30 days.
His argument to his former supporters, says one who spoke with him, is that he came very close in the last election against an incumbent president with a good economy. He wouldn't face an opponent with those kinds of advantages again. (Romney ran against Obama arguing that the economy was terrible; now its health in 2012 is part of the case why he should run again.) He also feels, says one supporter who has spoken with him recently, that he would be crazy to pass up a chance to challenge a "beatable candidate" like Hillary Clinton and let someone like Sen. Rand Paul have a shot at it.