The Fear That Makes Republicans Cling to Mitt

Since we’re talking about the 2016 Republican presidential field (I’ll try not to write about it any more today!), it’s important to note a palpable source of fear among GOPers that makes talk about Mitt or even Carly Fiorina more understandable. Here’s veteran conservative writer Jonathan Last:

People have assumed for two years now that the 2016 GOP field won’t be the 2012 clown show, but rather an all-star line-up of awesome. Christie. Walker. Jindal. Rubio. Ryan. Huckabee, maybe. That’s what it looked like 20 months ago.

Then Rubio pushed all-in with a bad immigration bill. The Bridgegate thing hit Christie. Jindal’s in-state approval rating tanked. Ryan looks to prefer the House. Walker is in the fight of his life for reelection. Jeb Bush inserted himself into the conversation. And Rick Perry began rehabilitating himself.

Now the field looks much more like Perry, Cruz, Rand Paul, and, possibly, Jeb. With Ben Carson making noises about getting in. And suddenly the clown show looks like it might be coming back to town.

I posit that it’s possible the Republican field in 2016 could be much weaker than people anticipate.

If that happens-if Walker loses and Christie can’t recover his mojo and Jindal never takes off and Rubio either decides not to go, or can’t escape his immigration problems and Ryan stands pat and Huckabee chooses to keep making money-then there will be a moment of chaos and panic in Republican circles as the party realizes that the line-up they were expecting isn’t going to appear. And in that moment, there will be the opportunity for both a fresh face we haven’t looked at before, and for Romney 5.0.

If this seems excessively speculative, recall that moment in 2012 when Mitt himself seemed one primary loss away from yielding his front-runner status to Rick Santorum, which would have filled the land with cries for Jeb! Jeb! to save the party.

Politics abhors a vaccum.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.