Let us recall 2012, an election year when Mitt Romney ran a campaign centered around the idea that he didn’t need the far right, and often rejected them in the race against Barack Obama.
That, combined with the absolute failure that was the GOP’s GOTV efforts, led to Obama winning re-election when he was perhaps the most vulnerable incumbent to date. Romney would ultimately disappear from political life for years, returning in an attempt to maintain some sort of “Elder Statesmen” status. He has also maintained his “I don’t need conservatives” attitude.
As the “Elder Statesman” of the GOP, Romney feels it necessary to come down from on high to tell the rest of the party how it should be acting. In today’s missive, delivered through the Opinion section of the Wall Street Journal, Romney proceeds to tell donors how they should be acting in the 2024 Republican primary.
Here’s how it opens:
Despite Donald Trump’s apparent inevitability, a baker’s dozen Republicans are hoping to become the party’s 2024 nominee for president. That is possible for any of them if the field narrows to a two-person race before Mr. Trump has the nomination sewn up. For that to happen, Republican megadonors and influencers—large and small—are going to have to do something they didn’t do in 2016: get candidates they support to agree to withdraw if and when their paths to the nomination are effectively closed. That decision day should be no later than, say, Feb. 26, the Monday following the contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.
Romney then goes on to tell the story of how his father stood united with Republican rivals in order to (fail to) oppose Richard Nixon before explaining that you can’t do that now because donors are throwing too much money around between candidates and Super PACs.
Which is fine and not completely wrong. However, there will always be money. You will never turn the tap completely off on a candidate, and money is not nearly as important in the equation as the sheer ego it takes to continue to run for President even when you have no shot.
No, if you want to actually get candidates to bow out of the race, you really need to do one thing: Rein in the damn consultants.
Romney’s own presidential campaign was plagued by chaos among his consultants, some of which made headlines. His political strategist, Stuart Stevens, made last-minute changes ahead of the national convention that created days of negative headlines. His campaign was so plagued by in-fighting that advisers were eager to spill the beans to multiple news outlets.
Fast forward four years and dumb consultants were still doing dumb things. Mike Murphy, a consultant backing Jeb Bush, used his PAC’s money to tout Bush’s government experience in a year voters clearly wanted an outsider. What’s more, he spent far more money attacking Marco Rubio than Donald Trump. For someone who is anti-Trump, Murphy sure helped Trump out quite a bit.
Other candidates kept getting sweet nothings whispered in their ears by consultants looking for a solid paycheck more than they were a win. Several of those consultants became Democrats in all but name, attacking Republicans who were less than ten degrees removed from Trump, his administration, or his policies.
The remainder would lay low for several years, rearing their ugly heads in 2022, when they ran just awful campaigns around the country, helping Republicans lose in what was supposed to be a very favorable year.
So, sure, cutting the candidates off from their money would be helpful in trimming down the field. But those candidates may get better traction going up against Trump if the consultant class wasn’t so damn focused on their commissions and focused more on actually winning elections. Romney himself fell victim to this, and he can’t seem to understand that. Forest for the trees, etc.
The Republican Party has enough money among its donor class to beat Trump if they so chose. They also have plenty of viable candidates. But the money and the candidates can’t overcome bad consultants. Fix that, and those of you who want to move on from Trump can do so.