Raising the Standard.

Romney’s Best Move: Stepping Aside

Don’t do it, Mitt.

Over the past few weeks, news outlets including Politico and ABC News have reported that former Massachusetts Governor and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is considering a third-run at the White House. Over the past two years, Romney has seen his favorability numbers rise dramatically. For some, President Obama’s second term seems to have fulfilled many of Governor Romney’s predictions. Others, exposed to his more personal side through documentaries like Mitt, have grown more personally fond of him despite policy differences. In light of these developments, former supporters and surrogates have flocked to Romney’s side, encouraging him to make one last run.

Up to this point, Romney has played his hand to near perfection. At first, he politely dismissed all suitors and said his time in the spotlight was over; someone new must carry the Republican banner. He played the role of bashful ex-candidate, thanking supporters for their kind words and support but waving away the idea of a third run. But now Romney has begun to send signals to voters and donors alike, returning their calls to run with subtle signs of interest.

If Romney ultimately declines to run, however, he will gain something no primary contest can win him. In bowing away gracefully, he will find the lasting affection of GOP voters and significant national political power. If Mitt quits now, while he is by all accounts far ahead, he may be the most powerful Republican in the country come primary season, with the ability to use his immense fundraising network and voter support to sway the election. He will effectively have the most influential endorsement of 2016, and if he strategically wields this endorsement he may be able to gain significant policy influence in a candidate’s inner circle.

Unfortunately, if history is any judge, Governor Romney’s political acumen will fall embarrassingly short of his business expertise. It would not surprise this observer in the slightest if Willard Mitt Romney mounted one more ill-conceived campaign for the Presidency.  But maybe — just maybe — Mitt has learned a thing or two over the course of his two decades in politics. Maybe he’s ready to embrace his role as a pseudo-Godfather figure in the GOP— exercising influence not through power or position but through sway among voters, connections in the donor class, and policy expertise. As in any great campaign, the candidate has a choice. At present, Mitt Romney holds his political future in his own hands. Time will tell whether he’s learned his lesson from past failures.

Davis Parker is Manager of THE ARCH CONSERVATIVE

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