Friday, June 03, 2005

A Clue From the Weekly Standard?

Thanks to Dan Kennedy for pointing out the Weekly Standard Cover Story on Mitt Romney. The bulk of the article focuses on Romney's religion and whether it would be a liability in his presidential campaign (although they also manage to fit in the requisite dig at Ted Kennedy). I think they underestimate the problems that Romney will have because of his being a Mormon in some of the Southern primaries, particularly against a Frist or a Santorum, but most interesting to me was the brief discussion of 2006 which preceded the religion talk.

Romney says he's been told "the demands of running for national office today are such that the two years prior to the general election you are basically running full time. There are probably some states where the people would say, 'Hey, we are going to elect you as governor and we don't care if you do something else full-time for two years.' But Massachusetts isn't one of those states, New York isn't, Michigan isn't, Ohio isn't." (Texas is one, where George W. Bush ran for reelection in 1998 having told voters he might run for president in 2000.) Romney also has noticed that some rumored 2008 candidates wouldn't be constrained by obligations of office--Bill Frist, who's giving up his Senate seat in 2006, and Rudy Giuliani, who has been the former mayor of New York City for over three years now. "If we look back in history," says Romney, "Ronald Reagan wasn't a sitting governor" when he ran for president, "Howard Dean wasn't a sitting governor. They had finished their responsibilities and were able to focus on the race." Romney also happened to criticize John Kerry for not resigning as senator while he ran for president. "My guess," says Romney, "is that if I were to try that, someone would notice what I'd said before."
It would appear, then, that Romney is at least aware of the problems he'd have running for Governor of Massachusetts and President at the same time. Not only that, but his competition will be free at that point to campaign full time, while he will be stuck in Massachusetts (as much as he ever is), should he be re-elected. It seems that starting his run for president might cost him the governorship, but winning re-election puts him at a disadvantage when seeking the presidency. Given that, it seems unlikely to me that the ambitious Romney would seek a second term. There's just too much at stake, and the payoff -- an extra half-term as governor of a state where the legislature will try to trip him up at every turn -- isn't worth it. If I were a Republican now, I'd start raising my public profile because as the Romney for President buzz increases, so too does the likelihood that he will abandon his post.