Mitt ’16 and the Damage To Be Done

As mixed and negative GOP reactions to Mitt Romney’s move towards a 2016 presidential candidacy roll in, it’s reasonably clear he’s not going to overwhelm the large and diverse pre-existing field with any avalanche of money or popular support. But it’s also increasingly clear he’s going to go forward with this project, at least for a while. So the right question to ask right now is how his proto-candidacy affects the dynamics of the contest? Who’s going to be damaged by Mitt ’16, even if he ultimately loses?

That’s the question I posed in my weekly column for TPMCafe, and I found myself remembering exactly how nasty and ruthless a primary candidate Romney proved to be, at least in 2012. That means no vulnerability among the candidates will go unexploited, and just about anybody could eventually come under fire from Team Mitt.

I did specifically suggest that aside from the impact on Jeb’s fundraising, the most obvious casualties could be candidates struggling to become the non-Bush-non-Wacko-Bird-but-acceptable-to-everybody options in the field, including Scott Walker. So I was interested to read a piece by the Washington Examiner‘s David Drucker today reporting that Walker is just pleased as punch that Romney’s jumped into the race with guns already blazing at Jebbie. Seems that he (or whoever in his camp that’s whispering to Drucker) figures anything that diminishes the big boys will be good for his “dark horse” candidacy.

Well, I dunno; it’s not like anyone can really sneak up on anyone else in the harsh glare of a presidential campaign. And one reason Walker’s putative bid feels a lot like Tim Pawlenty’s in 2012 is that it seems to depend on a lot of three-cushion shots that are easier to devise than to execute. But until Mitt’s strategy becomes plain, and/or he reconsiders a bid, nobody in the GOP should be chortling much about it. A wounded but still towering ego and endless sacks of money can together do a lot of damage.

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

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.