For months, Mitt Romney has been little more than a specter haunting the GOP, tucked away in La Jolla, California, never appearing on television, and rubbing shoulders with his fellow Republicans only on the rarest of occasions.
But nearly four months after Romney conceded the presidential election with a meek send-off in a half-filled Boston convention center, he is venturing out again, slated for a speaking spot at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.
The moment is being billed as Romney’s reemergence, but the truth is he never really left. Even though he hasn’t been seen, Romney has been hovering, ghostlike, over the Republican Party since November.
The phantasm was there in Sen. Marco Rubio’s response to the State of the Union address. The Florida Republican assured listeners that Democrats, just like Republicans, love America and talked about living in “the same working-class neighborhood I grew up in.” That was contra Romney, who reminded campaign audiences that his voters, at least, were motivated by love of country. He also had trouble living down his car elevator and his stated enjoyment of firing people.
Romney hung, wraithlike, over Bobby Jindal, when a few months after the election the Louisiana governor told a gathering of Republican grandees, “The first step in getting the voters to like us is to demonstrate that we like them.” He added, “We’ve got to compete for every single vote—47 percent and the 53 percent,” a hardly shrouded reference to Romney’s infamous comments at a Florida fundraiser.
And now, as Republicans emerge in the early earliest days of the next presidential cycle with their own proscription to fix what ails the GOP—Eric Cantor one week, Paul Ryan the next, Jeb Bush the following—the one thread linking each diagnosis is plain: WE ARE NOT THE PARTY OF ROMNEY.
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