Could Romney be the first completely programmable running mate?

Notes from the political sidelines.
July 29 2008 12:51 PM

Romneymania

Could he be the first completely programmable running mate?

80_thehasbeen
(Continued from Page 4)

As a Clintonite, I'm delighted that the show will go on. But even if I were on the sidelines, my reaction would have been the same. No matter which team you're rooting for, you've got to admit: We will never see another contest like this one, and the political junkie in all of us hopes it will never end.

It looks like we could get our wish—so we might as well rejoice and be glad in it. A long, exciting race for the nomination will be good for the Democratic Party, good for the eventual nominee, and the ride of a lifetime for every true political fan.

For the party, the benefits are obvious: By making this contest go the distance, the voters have done what party leaders wanted to do all along. This cycle, the Democratic National Committee was desperate to avoid the front-loaded calendar that backfired last time. As David Greenberg points out, the 2004 race was over by the first week of March—and promptly handed Republicans a full eight months to destroy our nominee. This time, the DNC begged states to back-load the calendar, even offering bonus delegates for moving primaries to late spring. Two dozen states flocked to Super Tuesday anyway.

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Happily, voters took matters into their own hands and gave the spring states more clout than party leaders ever could have hoped for. Last fall, NPR ran a whimsical story about the plight of South Dakota voters, whose June 3 contest is the last primary (along with Montana) on the calendar. Now restaurateurs, innkeepers, and vendors from Pierre to Rapid City look forward to that primary as Christmas in June.

But the national party, state parties, and Sioux Falls cafes aren't the only ones who'll benefit. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, the biggest beneficiaries of a protracted battle for the nomination are the two contestants themselves. Primaries are designed to be a warm-up for the general election, and a few more months of spring training will only improve their swings for the fall.

And let's face it: These two candidates know how to put on a show. Both are raising astonishing sums of money and attracting swarms of voters to the polls. Over the past month, their three head-to-head debates have drawn the largest audiences in cable television history. The second half of last week's MSNBC debate was the most watched show on any channel, with nearly 8 million viewers. An astonishing 4 million people tuned in to watch MSNBC's post-debate analysis, an experience so excruciating that it's as if every person in the Bay Area picked the same night to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge.

The permanent campaign turns out to be the best reality show ever invented. Any contest that can sustain that kind of excitement is like the World Series of poker: The value of the pot goes up with each hand, and whoever wins it won't be the least bit sorry that both sides went all-in.

No matter how it turns out, all of us who love politics have to pinch ourselves that we're alive to see a race that future generations will only read about. Most campaigns, even winning ones, only seem historic in retrospect. This time, we already know it's one for the ages; we just don't know how, when, or whether it's going to end.

Even journalists who dread spending the next seven weeks on the Pennsylvania Turnpike have to shake their heads in wonderment. In the lede of their lead story in Wednesday's Washington Post, Dan Balz and Jon Cohen referred to "the remarkable contest" that could stretch on till summer. They didn't sign on to spend the spring in Scranton and Sioux Falls. But, like the rest of us, they wouldn't miss this amazing stretch of history for anything. ... 11:59 p.m. (link)

Monday, Feb. 25, 2008

Hope Springs Eternal: With this weekend's victory in Puerto Rico and even more resounding triumph over the New York Times, John McCain moved within 200 delegates of mathematically clinching the Republican nomination. Mike Huckabee is having a good time playing out the string, but the rest of us have been forced to get on with our lives and accept that it's just not the same without Mitt.

But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? Out in Salt Lake City, in an interview with the Deseret Morning News, Josh Romney leaves open the possibility that his father might get back in the race:

Josh Romney called speculation that his father could be back in the race as either a vice presidential candidate or even at the top of the ticket as the GOP's presidential candidate "possible. Unlikely, but possible."

That's not much of an opening and no doubt more of one than he intended. But from mountain to prairie, the groundswell is spreading. Endorsements are flooding in from conservative bloggers like this one:

Mitt Romney was not my first choice for a presidential candidate, but he came third after Duncan Hunter and Fred Thompson. … I would love to see Mitt reenter the race.

Even if re-entry is too much to hope for, Josh hints that another Romney comeback may be in the works. He says he has been approached about running for Congress in Utah's 2nd District.

That, too, may be an unlikely trial balloon. Josh is just 32, has three young children, and would face a Democratic incumbent, Rep. Jim Matheson, who is one of the most popular politicians in the state. Matheson's father was a governor, too. But unlike Mitt Romney, Scott Matheson was governor of Utah.

If Mitt Romney has his eye on the No. 2 spot, Josh didn't do him any favors. "It's one thing to campaign for my dad, someone whose principles I line up with almost entirely," he told the Morning News. "I can't say the same thing for Sen. McCain."

Even so, Romney watchers can only take heart that after a year on the campaign trail, Josh has bounced back so quickly. "I was not that upset," he says of his father's defeat. "I didn't cry or anything."

In his year on the stump, Josh came across as the most down-to-earth of the Romney boys. He visited all 99 of Iowa's counties in the campaign Winnebago, the Mitt Mobile. He joked about his father's faults, such as "he has way too much energy." He let a Fox newswoman interview him in the master bedroom of the Mitt Mobile. (He showed her the air fresheners.) He blogged about the moose, salmon, and whale he ate while campaigning in Alaska—but when the feast was over, he delivered the Super Tuesday state for his dad.

As Jonathan Martin of Politico reported last summer, Josh was campaigning with his parents at the Fourth of July parade in Clear Lake, Iowa, when the Romneys ran into the Clintons. After Mitt told the Clintons how many counties Josh had visited, Hillary said, "You've got this built-in campaign team with your sons." Mitt replied, to Ann's apparent dismay, "If we had known, we would've had more."

We'll never know whether that could have made the difference. For now, we'll have to settle for the unlikely but possible hope that Mitt will come back to take another bow. ... 4:13 p.m. (link)

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