Mitt ’16 Gets Real, Praise the Lord

Just as it appeared the political news day was winding down, along came this bombshell from WaPo’s crack political reporters Costa, Rucker and Tumulty:

Mitt Romney is moving quickly to reassemble his national political network, spending the weekend and Monday calling former aides, donors and other supporters — as well as onetime foes such as Newt Gingrich.

Romney’s message was that he is serious about making a 2016 presidential bid. He told one senior Republican he “almost certainly will” run in what would be his third campaign for the White House, this person said.

His aggressive outreach over the past three days indicates that Romney’s declaration of interest to a group of donors in New York Friday was more than the release of a trial balloon but rather was the start of a concerted push by the 2012 nominee to be an active participant in the 2016 campaign.

Over the past few days, Romney has been in touch with an array of key allies to discuss his potential 2016 campaign, according to people with knowledge of the calls. They include Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), his former vice presidential running mate; former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty (R); Hewlett-Packard chief executive Meg Whitman; former Massachusetts senator Scott Brown; former Missouri senator Jim Talent; and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah).

I suppose you could call this a shot across Jeb Bush’s bow, though it seems a bit more like a hand grenade tossed into his tent. Check this part out:

In the conversations, Romney has said he is intent on running to the right of Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor who also is working aggressively to court donors and other party establishment figures for a 2016 bid. Romney has signaled to conservatives that, should he enter the race, he shares their views on immigration and on taxes — and that he will not run from party orthodoxy.

Well, lest we forget, Mitt ran as the Movement Conservative Candidate in 2008, and was Mr. Self-Deportation and Cut-Cap-Balance in 2012. Both those campaigns were a bit more recent than Jeb’s last, in 2002. But here’s a particularly strong signal:

On New Year’s Eve, Romney welcomed Laura Ingraham, the firebrand conservative and nationally syndicated talk-radio host, to his ski home in Deer Valley, Utah. The setting was informal and came about because Ingraham was vacationing in the area. Romney prepared a light lunch for Ingraham and her family as they spent more than one hour discussing politics and policy, according to sources familiar with the meeting.

A strong signal, and a strong stomach.

Well, it will be interesting to see how Mitt handles the alleged appetite of Republicans for “populism” going into 2016; of all his personas, I don’t think he’s ever worn that one. But his candidacy, unless this is a massive head-fake, sure will complicate the already insanely crowded 2016 field. Conservatives may cheer because Mitt ’16 will make the “Establishment” lane as crowded as their own. But as he’s shown before, he’s really good at projecting himself to primary voters as the electable and well-financed version of whatever it is they want.

As a progressive political writer, all I can do is to thank a beneficent God.

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.