BOSTON – Mitt Romney doesn't have a job for the first time in his adult life. That hardly means he's not working. In ways both subtle and overt, the 2008 Republican presidential contender, former Massachusetts governor, one-time Olympics chief and high-flying businessman is building toward a 2012 White House campaign by judiciously engaging and disengaging with the national debate.
On Tuesday, he's in Chicago to speak at a fundraiser for a prospective state treasurer candidate. On Wednesday, he's in Washington to headline a fundraiser for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. On Thursday, he's again the keynote speaker at a fundraising dinner for Republicans in New York City.
After that, he's heading back to his oceanfront home in La Jolla, Calif., to continue writing newspaper columns and a political book. Based on the '60s tome "The American Challenge" by Frenchman Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber, it will be aimed at shaking American economic and political complacency, he said.
Romney's also supervising the sale of houses he owns in Massachusetts and Utah, the type of excess real estate that brought ridicule to John McCain last fall. And his political action committee is seeding money to candidates across the country.
Romney may find himself in the coveted but dangerous spot of "front runner" for an election almost four years away. That is dangerous because there is a lot of ground to cover, but if he plays his hand right
Here are some of the factors in his favor (these are my thoughts, so I may be wrong about some of this stuff):
- There is no one who has emerged post election as the conservative voice, other than Rush Limbaugh who clearly is not going to be our nominee. I think Governor Palin could have been that voice, but she is so crippled from the campaign and her mishandling that she is probably going to have a hard time overcoming the media image that has been painted. Tim Pawlenty of MN is a possibility but no one outside of some political wonk types knows who he is. Bobbie Jindal is intriguing, but he fumbled his first major spotlight event in the Republican response, but he has plenty of time left to fix that. I don't see Huckabee being the answer.
- He is a businessman, a stark contrast to our current President who has no experience in the real world.
- He already has a grassroots organization in place in many of the early primary states, which is key to getting an early victory in the primaries.
- He has, as the article mentions, the best chance to bring together the fractured factions in the GOP, the social-religious conservatives and the old school, fiscal conservative of National Review.
- Perhaps most importantly to me, he was extremely gracious in defeat and did a lot to help McCain's doomed campaign. He showed a lot of character and class in defeat, and that should win him a lot of support. A gracious loser is still a loser, but he showed that he is committed to the cause.
Of course he still has some issues to deal with
- Christian conservatives are still going to look with suspicion at a mormon. I think after four years of Obama, we may be willing to swallow hard and vote for a mormon (for my litany of thoughts on Mitt Romney, click here)
- His reputation as a flip-flopper on conservative issues may still be a problem, but he has shown that he is committed to the cause over the course of the last year, so that may be going away.
- As a businessman, he is going to have to deal with the media and administration vilification of corporate America. Coupled with a likely minor economic recovery in spite of Obama's policies, he may have a tough fight ahead of him.