Ginger Gibson is a senior political writer at The International Business Times.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that while the Republicans have too many candidates for 2016, the Democrats have too few. If Hillary Clinton doesn’t run or her presidential campaign implodes, the thinking goes, her party has no bench, no backup, no Plan B.
The list of Democrats who have publicly suggested they might run is indeed skimpy. But it’s misleading to compare the depth of the two parties simply by counting the number of self-declared possible candidates. Every Republican who ever looked in the mirror and saw a president is hinting at a run, hoping to generate press, test the reaction and even begin to build momentum. For GOP-ers, there’s no downside to being talked about as a potential candidate. But not many A-list Democrats are mounting the same kind of PR campaign.
Several Democratic strategists, pollsters and party insiders interviewed for this article were eager to refute the idea that the party has no bench, and to suggest names of pols who could be viable 2016 candidates. But they didn’t want their own names attached to this article and refused to be quoted on the record. No one wants to be seen as encouraging someone to run against Clinton.
Just for the purposes of argument, here are some of the reasons Mitt Romney could succeed if he runs for president in 2016, as he is strongly hinting he will. He has name recognition. Having already been through a national campaign once — sorry, twice — he won’t be taken by surprise by the level of pressure and scrutiny. Even though he’ll be competing with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for donors, with his Wall Street background, he can surely scare up a few deep-pocketed supporters. And he made so many gaffes in the last campaign, the public may now shrug off any stumbles about binders full of women or his friendship with NASCAR owners.
Romney certainly appears to think he can win this time. The former Massachusetts governor sees a political space for himself to the right of Jeb Bush (on immigration and Common Core) but to the left of the crowded conservative field. He’s been meeting with potential donors and returning to the speaking circuit. He’s banking on the idea that the nation’s voters have buyer’s remorse — that they believe, as he does, that the country would’ve been better off if he had won.
But there’s a reason Romney didn’t win: He’s a weak candidate. After all, he didn’t lose to the 2008 version of Barack Obama, a charismatic powerhouse who had electrified voters with the possibility of hope and change. Romney is the guy who lost to 2012 Obama, when the unemployment rate was hovering around 8 percent and the president had disappointed his supporters on the left and been pummeled by years of attacks from the right.