Bye-bye, Mitt! The dream is over, America

Mitt Romney 3.0 is a no-go. (For now.) Here's how he almost deluded himself into pulling the trigger

By Jim Newell

Published January 30, 2015 4:50PM (EST)

  (AP/David Goldman)
(AP/David Goldman)

What a Friday morning for hot Mitt Romney action -- and, alas, the last hot Mitt Romney action we'll get.

Only a few hours ago, the Daily Beast had the EXCLUSIVE news that Mitt Romney would run for president again. He would break the news to donors at an 11 a.m. phone call. The funny thing about that Daily Beast EXCLUSIVE is that it was wrong. Well, not the part about Mitt having an 11 a.m. phone call with donors.

He was definitely having that call -- but to tell them, instead, that he would not run. Romney-loving radio host Hugh Hewitt was first with the statement: "After putting considerable thought into making another run for president, I’ve decided it is best to give other leaders in the Party the opportunity to become our next nominee." Let's doff our caps to Romney for going out in style with a decent B+/A- trolling of the political media.

It'd been a few weeks since Romney told donors that he was "seriously considering" a third run. The response to this trial balloon from most party officials and operatives had been a gentle pat on the head: How do we say this? They doesn't really like you, Mitt. This response eventually persuaded him into pulling back. There was always a comedy of manners underlying Romneybot 3.0: The Authentic Rebrand. He seemed to misinterpret Republicans being polite to him once he was outside politics as a sign that they wanted him to reenter politics. This dynamic nearly lured Al Gore back into the thick of things in 2004 and John Kerry in 2008, too, but they didn't seem to be surrounded by nearly as many yes-men in their inner circles.

This was a close call. How did it even get this far? Mark Halperin has a funny look into the factors that brought Romney to the otherworldly conclusion that what the Republican Party might need in 2016 is him.

The first factor was arrogance. This is not unusual in anyone who runs for president. Also not unusual: that he would cloak what to the naked eye was arrogance, ego and ambition with a sheen of spiritual and patriotic duty to wash it all down morally. It wasn't just about what he wanted, which was to be president really really badly! This was a God + Duty/Honor/Country thing, too.

The main rationale on the “go” side is Mitt and Ann Romney’s strongly held conviction that no one in the current field would make a better president. Critics in both parties and the press may scoff at this view, but the Romneys believe it to their core and thus feel Mitt has an obligation to his country to once again shoulder the mantle. Following his crushing defeat in 2012, Romney has deemed Obama’s second term an utter failure, particularly on issues of national security and the domestic economy. Furthermore, those in Romney’s orbit are convinced that Mitt is not just best qualified, but almost uniquely qualified to turn around the nation and help guide the world to safer pastures. The Romneys consider this assessment a clear-eyed, rational analysis of his skills as a manager and a leader, augmented by the sense of duty he was raised with in the Mormon faith.

The next factor: data. Mitt loves his data. He loved it in the management consulting world, when all this swell data would come in giving him precise figures for layoffs and so forth. He had a bad brush with data in 2012, when all of his in-house numbers showed him easily coasting to an Electoral College victory. But he'll forgive the data for that. Besides, he had a better, newfangled data machine whirling for him in the past few weeks. Romney, Halperin reports, was "briefed on what one Republican source describes as a massive, rolling private polling project recently conducted by a wealthy GOP contributor who shelled out his own money to determine which Republican has the best chance of winning the nomination." Sounds neat. What did it show?

The data, collected over an extended period of time in the first twenty states scheduled to hold caucuses and primaries in 2016, shows Romney with a huge lead across the board, and significantly better favorable/unfavorable ratings than the rest of the large potential field. The other prospects who fare well in the research are Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Maryland physician Ben Carson.

Well if the secret data project put Mitt in the same upper echelon as Ben Carson, then who's to doubt its veracity?

Lastly -- and this is sort of tied in with the whole delusional arrogance thing -- Mitt thought the rest of the field was trash. Two people he's previously liked whom he coincidentally began to take a dimmer view of as soon as he decided that he'd like to run again were Chris Christie and Jeb Bush. But Christie has too many skeletons in the closet, it was determined. And Jeb... well, this was the best line in the piece: "Romney is said to see Bush as a small-time businessman whose financial transactions would nonetheless be fodder for the Democrats and as terminally weighed down with voters across the board based on his family name." Small-time businessman -- awwwww shit, he went there.

He's definitely not throwing his support behind Bush now, either. "I believe that one of our next generation of Republican leaders," his farewell statement reads, "one who may not be as well known as I am today, one who has not yet taken their message across the country, one who is just getting started, may well emerge as being better able to defeat the Democrat nominee. In fact, I expect and hope that to be the case."

So Mitt Romney has finally come to grips with the fact that he will never be president. Just kidding. "I’ve been asked, and will certainly be asked again if there are any circumstances whatsoever that might develop that could change my mind," he says. "That seems unlikely." Only "unlikely," eh? Never change, Mitt.

Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

MORE FROM Jim Newell

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

2016 Elections Editor's Picks Gop Hugh Hewitt Jeb Bush Mitt Romney Presidential Candidates Republicans