Well, that didn't last very long. Just weeks after word broke that yes, twice-vanquished Republican candidate Mitt Romney was mulling a third run for the White House, the former Massachusetts governor came out Friday and announced Romney had decided not to run in 2016. He reportedly explained to supporters in a conference call that he wanted to give other GOP leaders a chance to rise to the forefront, though whether he has other reasons is unknowable at this point. But so far, the emotional stages of finding out Romney won't run have put us through the ringer a little bit — no more awkwardly oligarchic gaffes? No more claims of "severe" conservatism? No more "who let the dogs out?"
Basically, declining to run in this election cycle effectively brings Mitt's presidential ambitions to a close. He would've been 69 when the 2016 elections were held — the same age as Hillary Clinton, incidentally — but passing on this round means he'd be 73 in 2020, and in the event of an incumbent Republican presidency, he wouldn't have a reasonable route to challenge for the White House again until 2024, at age 77. In short, the man who's defined the Republican Party at the presidential may have just thrown in the towel once and for all.
Here's how we're all feeling on this climactic morning.
Confusion: Why Did You Play With Our Hearts?
Look, I'm no great fan of Mitt Romney's politics. It's all pretty standard Republican fare — pro-business tax giveaways, anti-abortion pandering (even though he didn't always feel that way), a chest-thumping foreign policy vision, and extremely far-right rhetoric on immigration, to name a few areas.
But there's also a real sense of bewilderment in all this, simply because I always assumed his unrelenting drive to be president would always win out. We've all heard the jokes — looks like a lab-created husk that had the word "president" stamped on the side, or somesuch — but in all honesty, I never would've imagined that he'd back away if still felt enough of that "itch" to tease that he might run in the first place. It is, in short, a fairly shocking turn of events. After all, what is Mitt Romney if not a presidential candidate?
Sadness: Don't Leave Us Now, It's Not Too Late!
Since 2007, I'd been convinced that if we ended up with a Republican president in the following 15 years or so, it would've been Mitt Romney. I've basically been claiming that "Mitt's it" for the Republicans for the better part of seven years. Even after 2012, I didn't quite believe he'd stay away. When he starting toeing the waters, I thought it was a sure deal.
And, frankly, when you look at the field without him, can you honestly say anybody's better off without him? As it stands now, the presumed candidates look something like a genuinely volatile mish-mash of conservative pseudo-celebrities and far-right operators — Ted Cruz and Ben Carson lashing each other in the primaries while Donald Trump watches sadly from his bedroom, pretending to debate his TV. Frankly, it's a field with a lot of options worse for a liberal voter than Romney was. Hell, Romney was even embracing a minimum wage hike this time around.
Anger: Fine, Stab Us In The Back, Whatevs
Okay, no, it's fine. We didn't elect you twice, so now you've got other things on your plate, that makes sense. Sure, maybe things would've been different if you hadn't run such a spineless, etch-a-sketch campaign, or toyed around with birther jokes, or said that thing about women binders, or lied so frequently, or insulted the baked goods of the working class. But hey, that's fine! Chris Christie can do all the fighting, you can just go home.
Acceptance: Hopefully He's In A Better Place
Maybe, when it's all said and done, the idea of being president just didn't have the same juice. Another few years of getting roasted by conservatives and liberals alike, endless fundraising, and harried, sticky-fingered lunches picking the fried skin off your KFC? It's easy enough the see why anyone would maybe rather turn it all down, especially when you have a fortune valued at over 200 million, and you're getting up there in years — why not just spend the rest of your life, you know, having some fun? Basically, he just had his Richard Nixon moment: "You won't have Mitt Romney to kick around anymore." And after all the machinations, schemes and mudslinging, that's got to feel a little liberating.