There is no stronger temptation in politics than to spot a triumphal parade and put oneself at the head of it. Yesterday we learned that Mitt Romney’s inner circle was making a hilariously large deal out of their hero’s involvement in three May 20 primaries. Now Mitt’s headed to Iowa to stump for Senate candidate Joni Ernst.
As I observed last week, Ernst is pretty close to being a lead-pipe cinch for the nomination. If she doesn’t win outright on June 3 by taking more than 35% of the vote, her friends in the Terry Branstad network will almost certainly lift her to the finish line at the state convention. So Romney is hardly taking any risks by intervening on her behalf.
On a more personal level, you have to wonder how Romney feels about re-engaging with the Great Corn Idol of Iowa GOP politics. This state derailed his 2008 presidential campaign, and it caused him great strategic trouble four years later (though it also helped him in the long run by croaking the potentially troublesome campaigns of Tim Pawlenty and Rick Perry). It says something–I’m not sure what–about his desire for vindication or fantasies of a Comeback that he would return.
For its part, the Ernst campaign is being very practical about it all. As Ben Jacobs pointed out in a tweet, Romney is campaigning only in Davenport and Cedar Rapids, staying away from those Western Iowa GOP strongholds where he lost to Mike Huckabee in 2008 and Rick Santorum in 2012. It will be interesting to see if Mitt shows up on the crowded platform at Ernst’s election night party on June 3. If he enjoys her expected win from a distance, maybe it’s a sign he’s just enjoying the Titular Head of the Republican Party (which is what pundits used to call the most recent presidential nominee) status without exposing himself to ridicule for the enthusiasm of his acolytes.