Romney’s New Game, House Rules

Mitt Romney is not an idiot. He knows that he can’t possibly win a presidential election as an independent candidate. And that’s even assuming he could get onto the ballot in enough states in time, which he can’t, having already missed Texas’s deadline. No Republican/conservative candidacy can win without Texas.

But I still give credence to this Washington Post report about his and Bill Kristol’s recruitment efforts for an anti-Trump candidacy, and it all comes down to this single paragraph:

One related objective is to prevent both Clinton and Trump from clinching a majority in the electoral college and thus throwing the presidential election to the House of Representatives, under the provision of the 12th Amendment of the Constitution. This scenario played out in 1824, when Andrew Jackson won a plurality of electoral and popular votes but was defeated in the House by John Quincy Adams.

I don’t think this is a “related objective.” I think it’s the only objective. A presidential election decided by the House of Representatives is the only path to victory for Mitt Romney who, as I have noted, still desperately wants to be president. When he positioned himself as a fallback/draft candidate back when Trump’s victory was not yet assured, he must have known then that his chances were slim…slim but feasible.

And so it is here. It’s still pretty damned unlikely that a Romney independent candidacy could win any electoral votes, let alone enough to throw the election to the House, but it’s possible. He’d need to rack up electoral votes in states where he could plausibly squeeze out plurality wins against Trump and Clinton. The most likely places for that to happen, however, would be states that Clinton is already going to lose. So to make this plan work, Romney needs to eke out wins in a few blue states, and that’s really where this falls apart.

It’s not impossible. If we start with the 2012 race as a starting point, and, for example, give Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire, and Michigan to independent-Romney, the election goes to the House. This assumes that Clinton doesn’t flip any ’12 red states blue in the mean time. You could also have a scenario where, say, Trump wins Iowa from the Democrats, but Romney wins Virginia. You get the idea. Not impossible, but very unlikely.

But “unlikely” could be enough as far as Romney and the anti-Trump GOP forces are concerned.

Of course, there’d be one more enormous hurdle, which is actually winning an election by the House. It’s not a majority-vote situation there. If the presidential election goes to the House of Representatives, each state’s delegation gets one vote. So the question then becomes whether Romney could convince a majority of Members within each state’s delegation to vote for him. (Oh, and the Senate would pick the vice-president. Fun, right?)

A deadlocked Electoral College vote going to the House would normally be an easy win for the GOP in a two-person race, because of the party’s vast over-representation in Congress. But two “Republicans”? I wouldn’t begin to know how to predict that. But I can say that it represents a glimmer of hope for Romney’s quixotic, last-ditch effort in his decade-long quest to become president.

Romney’s Game

Mitt Romney is trying to be president.

When Mitt Romney took the stage yesterday at the University of Utah to inveigh against Donald Trump, there was a widely shared sense (if my Twitter feed is any indication) that he was making a noble attempt at saving his party, and perhaps the country, from self-destruction. Selflessly exposing himself to a fresh set of volleys from Trump, Romney sought to awaken his party to the danger ahead if it continued to allow Trump to strut all the way to the nomination. And you know what? It was nice to see him. No longer a political candidate, he seemed more like our cuddly, rich grandpa. Guys! Listen to grandpa!

This narrative wasn’t making sense to me. Surely, Romney must know that by coming out of hiding to attack Trump for his indecorousness, he would only put in clearer relief the contrast that Trump wants to make anyway: The old-style party establishment wants Trump to play nice, but Trump is here to shake the place up and tell it like it is. Romney’s displeasure with Trump is about as impactful to Trump voters as McCain’s disdain. Hey, let’s find out if Taft will go after him! Romney must be aware of this, and few politicians are as hyper-self-aware as he is. And he’s not an idiot.

Now think about how Romney’s hits against Trump were almost entirely about style, tone, and tactics. Don’t say “ban all Muslims,” you see, because that upsets potential allies. Never mind that it’s also just awful. But he did have a litany of policy and character hits against another front-runner, Hillary Clinton. In a speech ostensibly designed to convince people not to back Trump (which I don’t think it actually was, really), the person Romney was really attacking the most viciously was Hillary Clinton.

He also didn’t suggest one candidate to support over Trump. Instead, he urged people to vote strategically so that the remaining three candidates score disparate wins in their most favorable respective states. But that’s not a recipe for defeating Trump. At best, it’s a strategy to thin the delegate spread, and maybe, just maybe, deny Trump a majority and force a brokered convention.

Finally, he never even made a glancing reference to the fact that he sought and won Trump’s endorsement in 2012, that he praised him every which way in their joint appearances. To lend genuine credence to his argument that Trump had to be stopped, he could have at least acknowledged his own past association, to chalk it up to the needs of a different time and circumstance, acknowledge that it’s a little awkward now, but assert that this conviction is too important to allow the 2012 endorsement to stop him from saying what needs to be said. I mean, anything would have helped. But he said absolutely nothing about it.

So let’s add this up. He formally attacks the GOP frontrunner as unacceptable, knowing that doing so only solidifies said frontrunner’s support. He attacks the likely Democratic nominee with far more heat than he does the ostensible target of the larger speech. He eschews an endorsement of an alternative to Trump, but instead advocates for a strategy that would result in a brokered convention. And he pretends his previous bonhomie with Trump never happened.

Romney is trying to be president. What he’s hoping, I think, is that he can use his elder-statesman, above-the-fray status to nudge forward a process that ends with a desperate party drafting him at the convention. He may also, in fact, really hate Donald Trump, but that is incidental. Romney delivered what was more or less a campaign speech mainly for the benefit of the general electorate. He’s positioning himself as the sane, wise, dignified leader, contrasting with Trump on style as a candidate, but more importantly to him, contrasting with Clinton on substance as a president.

You know he must be kicking himself for not running this time around. I don’t think there’s much else that drives Romney, other than his family, than his need to be president. I don’t mean to imply this is an evil or shallow need. I think it may be very deeply felt that he’s supposed to be president to help save/heal/improve the country.

He must also know that this gambit has very little chance of success. But if it fails, he loses nothing. He remains where he is, and we remember that he tried to warn us. But if it works, he gets one more shot at the White House. He wouldn’t need to be vetted again, he’s known and largely respected by the electorate. He’d be seen as a safe, known, comfortable choice by many. And I have no doubt that he thinks he can beat Clinton.

He’s wrong, of course.

So don’t give Romney too much credit. Rather than sticking his neck out for the sake of his country, he’s quietly and slyly placing his hat into the ring, and hoping we don’t notice. Hey, who threw that hat in?

Oh, look at that. Is that my hat? Well, if you insist.


Photo credit: DonkeyHotey via / CC BY-SA
Former President Jimmy Carter would take Trump over Cruz, and so would I. Jimmy says:

The reason is, Trump has proven already he’s completely malleable. I don’t think he has any fixed (positions) he’d go the White House and fight for. On the other hand, Ted Cruz is not malleable. He has far right-wing policies he’d pursue if he became president.

This is exactly the point I’ve been making about Trump vs. Cruz, but President Carter put it perfectly. Trump is malleable. He pretends to have an ideological agenda, but it’s all show. He just wants to win the big popularity contest and get the job. He may be terrible at it if he gets it, but he won’t be guided by some absurd belief that the creator of the universe must be placated through government fiat. The only supreme being he cares about is himself, and he’ll do whatever he has to do to keep things running to his satisfaction.

I’m not saying he’ll reveal himself to be a closet liberal (though one never knows), but that he’ll roll with it. He won’t embark on crusades, he’ll cut deals. He’ll allow himself to be influenced, he’ll feel the political winds, and he’ll probably try to get a few things done. It’ll be pragmatism and ego, not zealotry. (And, with Cruz, also ego.)

This is why I used to half-jokingly tout Mitt Romney for president, at least for the GOP nomination. Yes he was poised to be the most likely to be able to defeat President Obama, but it was a more palatable thought than a Gingrich or a Santorum getting the nomination and then somehow winning the White House. Romney wasn’t just “moderate,” he was, like Trump, malleable. He’d want to get things done. If it meant chucking Republican dogma or snubbing Tea Party dumbasses, then so be it. If the political tides shifted in a particular direction, he’d have leaned into them in order to keep things stable.

Cruz is not malleable (except his god damn smug pompous shit-eating fucking ass-face). He’s a fanatic. Trump is a salesman, Cruz is a maniac. If I have to choose, I’ll take the salesman.


GOP Festival of Lies, Day Two

Once again, on day two of the Republican National Convention, it was ominous how few mentions of the nominee himself were made. It wasn’t quite as stark as it had been on day one in the speeches of Chris Christie and others, but notable nonetheless. I asserted that the first night’s speeches were evidence that the speakers were all setting themselves up for future campaigns, as they had collectively (and perhaps independently) come to the conclusion that Mitt Romney was a sinking ship.

I still think that’s true, but I also think the mostly-Romneyless speeches from Condoleezza Rice and Paul Ryan last night were also indicative of an intentional strategy to be as vague as possible about Romney and what he stands for, and instead deluge the viewer with platitudes and fuzzy imagery. Romney the man is not sellable, but generic Americanness is. If you remember that the intended audience for the prime time speeches is not the politically tuned-in or the base, but the handful of uninformed undecideds, that strategy makes perfect sense.

Remembering the intended audience also explains Paul Ryan’s shameless, brazen speech that was absolutely overflowing with lies. To anyone who is even a little bit informed, it was astounding how blatantly he simply told lie after lie about himself and the president. But to those uninformed undecideds, well, they’ll never know that nothing he said was true. So for a speech intended for those ears and eyes, it was probably a big success. Which is a horrible shame, and very damning of American society.

Update: As Dan Amira wrote:

Most of the millions of people who watched the speech on television tonight do not read fact-checks or obsessively consume news fifteen hours a day, and will never know how much Ryan’s case against Obama relied on lies and deception. Ryan’s pants are on fire, but all America saw was a barn-burner.

Right off the bat, Romney hits us with some unscripted juice. “My, oh my, you guys are great to be out here with this rain,” he says. He has declined the use of an umbrella and is getting rained on with the rest of us. He grins, jaw like a crescent moon. “This guy here with the orange shirt—boy, that thing is turning a diff…a deeper color of orange here this morning.” The man’s shirt is turning a deeper color of orange due to moisture saturation, is the phenomenon that Mitt Romney is pointing out. Is there an emotional clue here? Not to his essential self, perhaps, but the remark does suggest a man who does not often behold damp textiles, who perhaps comes from a land where the laws of materiality and hydrology are different from our own.

Wells Tower: Does Mitt Romney Have a Soul? – GQ

I cannot begin to express how much I loved this piece.

I Want Revenge

I don’t know if Mitt Romney’s cruelty toward those he perceived as weak in high school is relevant to how he would handle the presidency.

But I know this: I was bullied mercilessly in school. Middle school alone was so traumatic, so totally full of verbal abuse, shunning, mockery, and occasional beatings, that I nearly didn’t make it, and it’s damaged me badly to this day. High school allowed me to find some safe niches, but the cruelty persisted nonetheless. When I was the victim of an outright assault in DC in 2010, it was itself a form of bullying: heartless people taking their aggression out on a vulnerable person.

So if voters do hold this against Romney, if he does lose support because of something he did almost 50 years ago, I say: Good. The people who bully almost never see it as significant, and that’s just the problem. They see it as their right as a “superior” person to call out and harm their inferiors. To them, it’s just funny, at best.

It probably won’t happen, but I admit it, regardless of its actual, current-day relevance, I hope Romney loses many, many votes over this. Someone in my position never gets revenge, so I’ll take whatever pittance I can get.