Romney for President?
by David Trumbull, May 13, 2016
"He came pretty close to being elected president, so I thought he may consider doing it, especially since he has been very forthright in explaining why Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton should not be president of the United States," said William Kristol in a phone interview with the Washington Post last Friday. In that interview he reportedly confirmed that he and Romney had a meeting in Washington to discuss Romney's potential run as an independent.
Has the Republican establishment gone stark raving mad? Is Romney serious considering this? I thought Mormons didn't do drugs. Kristol must have given Mitt something stronger than a caffeine-free diet Pepsi if he got him to buy into this scheme.
Let's, as they say, break down the numbers.
1. Can Romney or any other independent win? No. No independent candidate has won a single State since 1968, when George Wallace won five States of the old Confederacy. He won't even be on the ballot in Texas (38 electoral votes) because the deadline to file was May 9th. Can he get nearly 90,000 signatures by June 9th to get on the ballot in North Carolina (15 electoral votes), unlikely. Say he gets on the ballot in California (55 electoral votes), where he has until early August to get the necessary 180,000 nomination signatures, then what? In 2012 Romney got 37% of the vote in the Golden State as a major party nominee. With current polls showing Clinton winning by comfortable margins over Trump, and that even without Romney pulling votes away from Trump, it doesn't take much analysis to see that Romney cannot win California. He has more time to get on the ballot in New York, and needs only 15,000 signatures, however he must get at least 100 from each of the state's congressional 27 districts. Even when he ran as a major party candidate Romney was weak on the sort of on-the-ground, precinct-by-precinct organization needed to pull that off. But say he does get on the ballot and competes for the Empire State's 29 electoral votes. Does he really believe that he can do better than New Yorker, Trump, and former New York Senator, Clinton? So there are four States that account for a quarter of the electoral vote total off the table. Romney would need to get two-thirds of all the remaining votes to win. In other words, the only way this late entry, non-major party candidate can win at all is if he wins in a landslide. The Las Vegas bookmakers have a name for betting on that happening, a sucker bet.
2. Can Romney win enough votes to deny both of the other candidates the 270 necessary to win, thus throwing the election to the House of Representatives where each State delegation would have one vote? That seems unlikely. If Wallace, with a more coherent, but repugnant, basis for a third-party run (Wallace was a segregationist who won some of the States of the old Confederacy during a time when the battle for civil rights for African-American was one of the topics at the center of political discourse) couldn't do it, what makes Romney think he can. Can he win Massachusetts where he was Governor? Well, he couldn't when running head-to-head with a Democrat, now he'd need to do it while splitting the Republican vote. Ditto for his native State of Michigan and adopted State of New Hampshire, he lost both in 2012. Perhaps he pulls off a win in Mormon Utah and gets 6 electoral votes. Will that be enough to deny the others 270? Who knows. Could that make a difference in a close election. Well, in 2004 Bush could have lost those 6 votes and still have had 10 more than he needed. In 2000, had Bush lost the then 5 votes from Utah and everything else stayed the same, the election would have gone to the House of Representatives. In the 1960 election, the closest ever in popular vote, Kennedy would still have won, even with 33 fewer electoral votes. In the unlikely event that Romney got enough votes to send it to the House of Representatives, it looks good for him. Remember, each State gets one vote. In 33 States the delegation is majority Republican. Democrats are the majority in 14 delegations, while three are split evenly. Even though Trump is the Republican nominee, the Republican establishment does not like him and would likely vote for Romney. That would give us a President who most likely would have come in third place in both the popular and the electoral vote. Watch for a massive movement to change our voting system after that!
3. The most likely scenario. Romney takes just enough votes away from Trump that Clinton wins. The Republican establishment has no problem with Clinton as she represents the Democratic establishment and the Republican and Democratic establishment have much more affinity for each other than they do with their own voters.