Mitt Romney Is Still Front Page News

He appeared prominently in Boston’s newspapers this weekend.

Mitt Romney enjoyed another weekend of outsized press, with appearances on the front pages of both the Boston Herald and the Boston Globe. Both papers, and much of the national press, are still focused on Mitt’s role in the 2016 election. The stories, however, took different tacks.

The Boston Globe’s Saturday story very closely resembled others that have appeared before it in recent weeks. It asked the question: Will Mitt Romney run for president in 2016, as some supporters think he should? And answered it: Probably not. Or, in Mitt’s words, “Oh, no, no, no. No, no, no, no, no. No, no, no.”

The argument for his 2016 chances is familiar. He made his case well enough in his past two runs to keep some supporters hoping he might still make it to the White House. Plus, he’s had a warmer press profile, lately, seeming to shed the robotic, gaffe-prone image he wore in the 2012 race. He has a friendly documentary on Netflix, he appeared on Jimmy Fallon, etc.

But The Boston Herald story points out another role he’s played in public lately: as a talking head/Republican attack dog. (Or as the Herald calls him in a satisfyingly Herald-esque coverline: “Mittbull.”) As B.U.’s John Carroll notes, “the Herald piece operates under the assumption Romney is not a potential 2016 contender.” Having read the Globe piece or remembering much of anything about U.S. politics, that seems wise. Instead of playing the “what if he runs game,” as everyone else has, they put forward a more probable alternative:

“He will be the one who carries the fight and makes the arguments and shows the contrasts,” said Tom Rath, a New Hampshire GOP consultant who helped Romney’s 2012 bid. “He fills the void while we are waiting to select a nominee, and he can be a very effective and compelling spokesperson who doesn’t have to be anything but be himself.”

The Herald isn’t usually one to approach a Massachusetts Republicans’ chances of election with much pessimism. (See: Scott Brown coverage.) So all credit to the paper for starting with the idea that Romney won’t run, and then asking what else he might do instead. They’re answer makes sense.

He’ll be a face of the party until the party nominates someone to replace him. It works because he doesn’t need to be electable or likable. He just needs to seem smart and put Democrats on the defensive. He’s already begun with an appearance on “Meet the Press,” this weekend, by joining the fray of those rehashing Bill Clinton’s indiscretions while in office. That’s an appearance, by the way, where he also noted, “I’m not running for president.” Somehow we don’t think it’s the last time he’ll have to answer that question.

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