How About This 2016 Matchup? Clinton vs. Romney
Policy + Politics

How About This 2016 Matchup? Clinton vs. Romney

REUTERS/Dan Anderson

Here’s a 2016 presidential matchup that nobody seriously contemplated until now: Clinton vs Romney.

It wasn’t long ago that former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney was consigned to the political dustbin of history after his dismal showing against President Obama in the November 2012 election. Republicans distanced themselves from Romney almost as quickly as they’d turned away from former President George W. Bush.

Related: Romney: Lewinsky Affair is Bill’s Failure, Not Hillary’s

Romney hoped at best to assume the role of elder statesman – a seasoned politician and businessman who could advise a fresh crop of GOP presidential wannabes. Just as he was being airbrushed from view by Republican strategists, former Secretary of State and former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton seemingly donned the mantle of invincibility – and inevitability – as Obama’s successor.

With her new book, Hard Choices, a sky-high public approval rating and the early semblance of a strong campaign apparatus, Clinton eclipsed Vice President Joe Biden and other Democrats with the temerity to think about challenging her for their party’s nomination.

Last week, Clinton stumbled badly out of the gate as she mounted her book tour and media blitz and even saw a dip in her overall popularity, while Romney savored a whiff of interest in a possible new candidacy.

A new Bloomberg News poll indicates Clinton’s once-overwhelming lead is beginning to shrink. The poll says 52 percent of Americans view her favorably, down from 56 percent in March and 70 percent at the end of 2012, as she was preparing to leave the State Dept.

Romney, meanwhile, enjoyed a sudden surge in popularity – even blandishments from some establishment Republicans and business leaders to consider making another bid for the White House.

Related: 9 Takeaways from Hillary Clinton’s New Memoir

While a third Romney campaign must be treated as the longest of long shots, former GOP presidents Richard M. Nixon and Ronald Reagan proved that it sometimes takes multiple tries to win the highest office.

“There’s a remote chance, sure,” that Romney might run again, University of Virginia political scientist Larry J. Sabato said in an interview. “You can conjure up wild scenarios that might produce a GOP deadlock, and the leadership grabs the only guy around who could quickly raise money and knows the ropes. But it’s a tiny chance.”

Renewed interest in Romney may have begun with the Sundance Film Festival’s screening last January of “Mitt,” a sympathetic documentary that showed a much more human and introspective man than was seen during the campaign. Then, last week, Romney hosted a GOP summit and retreat in Park City, Utah, to help political leaders and conservative thinkers carve a winning path to the 2016 presidential election and beyond.

Related: Why Hillary Clinton Must Run in 2016

The summit drew party activists, business leaders and six GOP presidential aspirants, including N.J. Gov. Chris Christie, Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Rob Portman of Ohio, and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Romney’s running mate in 2012. Romney waved off any suggestion he might consider running again and insisted others were just trying to make him feel good. “I’m not running and they know it,” he told The LA Times.

However, he could’ve fooled a lot of people, according to The Washington Post. He sparked speculation with a “sweeping, campaign-style speech” that skewered Obama’s foreign policy decision-making and took Clinton to task as well. “The Obama-Biden-Hillary Clinton foreign policy is a monumental bust,” Romney told a cheering throng.

MSNBC host Joe Scarborough said during a private dinner during the conference that Romney “is the only person that can fill the stage,” according to The Post.

Former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a maverick Democrat who befriended Romney when the two men were governors, also old reporters Romney would be “a giant in a field of midgets” if he were to run again.

Related: This Former Governor Wants Hillary’s Spot in 2016

Schweitzer, though, contemplating his own presidential bid, told Business Insider Monday, “Mitt Romney is not running for president or anything else,” adding, “If I were a betting man, I’d give you 4-to-1 odds.”

As memories begin to fade about Romney’s flaws as a politician and campaigner in the 2012 race, his strengths as a political leader, strategist, debater and business and government official may begin to appeal more to the rank and file. Last March, 34 percent of Republicans said in a Washington Post-ABC News poll they could definitely back him in the 2016 GOP primary.

That was the highest number recorded for any Republican. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee tied for second at 15 percent each.

Ross Baker, a political scientist at Rutgers University, calls the renewed interest in Romney among some as choosing “any port in the storm.” “There’s a storm going on in the Republican Party right now and they’re looking for a figure who represents stability, sanity in a sense – someone who the party has rallied around in the past,” Baker said in an interview on Monday. “I think they’re groping for someone who has those qualities. There are not that many people around.

“Romney has a very soothing manner, he doesn’t go out of his way to pick fights, and I think he’s kind of a mediator – the kind of person you look for in a debate who is going to call it fair for both sides,” Baker added.

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