Three potential Republican candidates for President- Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee- have all been through this before. In fact, they are using this as justification for another run. Being familiar with the process is one thing, but adapting to the changes is another thing altogether. All of them are under the mistaken impression that they can recreate what they did previously, make changes to where they went wrong, and move on claiming they are the most electable, viable candidate for the Republican Party in 2016. All of them are seriously mistaken, seriously misguided, or just plain deranged.
All three have been in contact with staff members who worked on their previous campaigns under the assumption that they can “bring the gang back together.” This is absurd, almost a political rendition of that awful Adam Sandler movie Grown Ups. It is a vastly different political world from 2008 or 2012 and issues have changed. The so-called moderates who backed Romney in the past have a host of other potential candidates to look towards today- Chris Christie and Jeb Bush, for example. The conservatives have Ben Carson and [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ] now. In 2008, Christie was a federal prosecutor in New Jersey; Bush was governor of Florida. In 2008, Ben Carson was a neurosurgeon and Cruz was in private legal practice in Houston, not on anyone’s political radar.
Let’s look at each of these potential candidates in turn and, more importantly, where their former campaign staffs are now. Romney’s top adviser and 2012 campaign chair was his trusted friend Bob White who is currently teaching politics at Harvard while Matt Rhoades heads up America Rising, a quasi-Super PAC that focuses on messaging. It is essentially an opposition research operation that records and delves into public appearances by potential opponents seeking out gaffes. In short, most of the “guys” have moved onto more lucrative endeavors that would make it difficult for them to leave in what may another losing cause. Its one thing to have your name attached to a losing presidential campaign, but almost political suicide to have your name attached to two consecutive losing campaigns.
Consider this little tidbit also. [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ] recently, almost nonchalantly, said that if he was to declare his candidacy, he would use long-time political consultant Ben Ginsberg as his campaign attorney. Overlooked by many, this move is interesting since Cruz is seen as the quintessential outsider while Ginsberg is viewed as the quintessential Republican establishment type of guy. Ginsberg has previously served on the campaigns of Bush in 2000 and Romney in 2012. Not only do you have Romney losing a trusted ally from 2012, but losing him to a Republican non-conformist.
Not to be outdone, Ben Carson has plucked someone right out from under Cruz on his home turf- Terry Giles. Paul has hired former Iowa GOP chair Steve Grubbs to run his efforts in Iowa. Grubbs has previously worked with such mainstream candidates as Bob Dole to such outsiders as Herman Cain. And as the field becomes more focused, one can envision more and more political operatives choosing sides and forming what many may perceive as strange alliances.
Romney operatives have remained loyal to him, but the question is the degree of that loyalty. Are they loyal enough to go through another campaign? No one doubts their sincerity, but how far that sincerity extends when push comes to shove will be put to the test should he officially run.
Santorum’s former campaign manager Mike Biundo has already left the fold in favor of [mc_name name=’Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’P000603′ ] having joined his efforts and should be the coordinator in New England, it has been reported. Ironically, Huckabee’s loyalists have largely stayed put behind their man. In fact, it was his long time strategist and friend Chip Saltsman who approached Huckabee about the possibility of a run, not Huckabee reaching out to Saltsman to test the waters. If anyone can recreate their former campaign line-up, it would be Mike Huckabee. He sat out the 2012 election having parlayed his 2008 Iowa caucus victory into a popular and lucrative Fox News career.
The problem for this group right now is timing. As others like Cruz, Paul, and even Scott Walker are assembling teams for a possible presidential run, the talent will be dwindling. Potential candidates like Romney, Huckabee and Santorum will find themselves scrounging for what is left over. The sooner they officially announce and put together their teams, the better off they may be. However, this comes with an important caveat.
Let us not forget that Mitt Romney lost in 2008 and the big one in 2012, Santorum lost in 2012 and Huckabee lost in 2008. The question then becomes whether they want to reassemble a team that produced a loser, for lack of a better word. Finding some new talent to help run a campaign may not, in the end, be necessarily a bad thing. There is something to be said for experience, but neither should we knock innovation and new faces. After all, operatives like Karl Rove and others were once “new faces.”