“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”
That phrase, coined by The Who’s Pete Townshend, might well be applied to the early race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.
With most of the supposed contenders and might-be candidates failing to secure significant traction in polls, an idea that is gaining some currency is to turn again to Mitt Romney, who was defeated in 2012 by President Obama.
That fire was fueled by recent polls in New Hampshire, site of the nation’s first presidential primary, that showed Romney crushing the other contenders. It should be noted that Romney has ties to the Granite State and was governor of neighboring Massachusetts, but in looking at the other GOP possibilities, why wouldn’t voters think that Mitt might be worth another try? Romney insists he’s not running, but so have many people who ended up doing just that.
Next in line behind Romney in one New Hampshire poll was New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. The likelihood of his emerging from the primary process to be the GOP nominee is probably akin to the chances of someone selling ice cubes to Eskimos. Christie, you see, is considered a moderate and has been known to engage with Democrats, which makes him a “flaming liberal” to the true believers who make up the core of the Republicans’ primary electorate.
In polls that don’t include Romney, Christie and the other leading candidates seem to be running in a tight pack, with no one gaining much more than 10 percent of the support. There might be reasons for that. Former Arkansas governor and current TV talking head Mike Huckabee, who ran in 2008, has the whiff of a regional candidate who won’t resonate with voters beyond his Southern Baptist base. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a tea party favorite, is a bit of a loose cannon and seems likely to be prone to campaign trail gaffes. Others in the group include former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who has given little indication that he’s interested in running; Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who ran a terrible campaign in 2012; and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has been compared by some to Joe McCarthy. That’s not a compliment. Also in the mix are U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, the 2012 Republican vice presidential pick, and Marco Rubio, the young senator from Florida. And don’t forget Pennsylvania’s own angry Rick Santorum, who wants to take the country back to the ’50s – the 1650s.
There’s an old saying that sometimes the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know. Despite a couple of well-publicized missteps two years ago, Romney proved to be a fairly solid, dependable standard bearer.
Of course, even if Romney were to run a new and improved campaign in 2016, it’s conceivable that he could face a tougher opponent in the general election. Hillary Clinton is viewed as the clear frontrunner among Democrats. While she has baggage of her own, and lost to Obama in 2008, Clinton is not reviled to the degree that Obama is by some in the opposing ranks, who before the 2012 vote denigrated Obama as an anti-American “one-termer” who was to blame for pretty much everything but the Holocaust and the Hindenburg disaster.
The 2016 presidential election, and the votes for members of the House and Senate, are important to the political parties, of course, but they also could create a seismic shift in the direction of the country.
Perhaps most critical is the future of the Supreme Court, which has displayed highly political tendencies over the past dozen years. The next president, particularly if he or she wins two terms, might well appoint more high court justices than any president since Eisenhower, who chose five. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 81. Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy will be 80 by the time of the 2016 vote. Stephen Breyer turns 76 today. Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito are both in their mid-60s.
After reviewing their presidential choices, Republicans may well decide that Romney, despite his lack of success in 2012, might give their party the best chance of reclaiming the White House from the Democrats. Or, they might align behind a new candidate and decide that Romney makes them think of the title of the song from which the quotation at the beginning of this piece was taken. It’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”