November 17, 2012

Romney's fall from grace

The messy aftermath of his loss suggests that Republicans won't look to him to rebuild.

By DAN EGGEN The Washington Post

Days after failing to sail into the White House, Mitt Romney is already being tossed overboard by his party.

Mitt Romney
click image to enlarge

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney takes the stage to concede victory. The former Massachusetts governor has quickly become persona non grata to a shell-shocked party anxious to rebuild.

The Associated Press

The former Massachusetts governor -- who attracted $1 billion in funding and 59 million votes in his bid to unseat President Obama -- has rapidly become persona non grata to a shell-shocked Republican Party, which appears eager to map out its future without its 2012 nominee.

Romney was by all accounts stunned at the scale of his Nov. 6 loss, dropping quickly from public view after delivering a short concession speech to a half-empty Boston arena. Then came a series of tin-eared remarks this week blaming his loss on Obama's "gifts" to African-Americans and Hispanics -- putting him squarely at odds with party leaders struggling to build bridges with minorities.

"You can't expect to be a leader of all the people and be divisive," New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Friday on MSNBC, adding: "Someone asked me, 'Why did Mitt Romney lose?' And I said because he got less votes than Barack Obama, that's why."

It's a remarkable fall from grace for Romney, who just 10 days ago held the chance of a Republican return to power at the White House.

The messy aftermath of his failure suggests that Romney, a political amalgam with no natural constituency beyond the business community, is unlikely to play a significant role in rebuilding his party, many Republicans said this week.

"He's not going to be running for anything in the future," said Rep. Ral R. Labrador (R-Idaho), who sharply criticized Romney's comments about Hispanics. "He's not our standard-bearer, unfortunately."

Romney adviser Stuart Stevens strongly disagreed, calling Romney "the most popular Republican on the national scene at the moment," given the votes he received on Election Day. Views of defeated candidates can change dramatically over time, Stevens added.

"Even those who have been critical of the campaign on our side realize in the end that Gov. Romney was resonating with millions of Americans and was running the kind of campaign we could all be proud of," Stevens said. "I think the governor can have the political road of his choosing. I have no idea what that would be."

The fate of failed presidential nominees varies widely in modern times. Republican nominee and former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole still wields influence as a Republican sage since his failed 1996 run, while Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is still sparring publicly with President Obama, who defeated him in 2008. Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), who lost to President George W. Bush in 2004, is now a candidate to be Obama's secretary of defense or state in the second term.

Former Vice President Al Gore went into the political wilderness for a time after his 2000 loss to Bush before remaking himself as an antiwar and environmental crusader.

The most famous loser of all might be Richard M. Nixon, who was defeated in a presidential bid in 1960 and a California gubernatorial race in 1962, only to come back to win the White House in 1968.

Romney, by contrast, appears well on the way to disappearing, with a not-so-gentle shove from his own party. The private equity firm founder, who listed his profession as "author" on campaign disclosures, has no political stage from which to operate and few voices of support to spur him on.

It's possible that the 2012 nominee could be headed for the kind of political ignominy occupied by another former governor and presidential candidate from Massachusetts, Democrat Michael Dukakis, who essentially went sight unseen after his drubbing by George H.W. Bush in 1988.

"There is life after presidential defeat in some cases, but not all," said Stephen Hess, a presidential historian at the Brookings Institution. "There are still possibilities for service, whether public or otherwise. If you live long enough, there's often a process of restoration."

(Continued on page 2)

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