As kids, we all dream of being President. Sometimes parents indulge us and tell us that of course we’ll become the leader of the free world, because, after all, anything is possible. Then they stick us with a box of crackers and send us on our merry way, though shortly after, we decide being President isn’t our true dream—we’d much rather be Santa Claus. Or an elf, as long as a pet reindeer is involved.
Clearly, we don’t all grow up to become President of the United States. Though the 2016 Hunger Games, I mean, Presidential election, has hopeful candidates coming out of the woodwork—Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, the list goes on—there can only be one commander in chief. Though we haven’t even reached the primaries yet, the list of potential candidates is constantly in flux as new would-be-presidents enter the race while other pull out. Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who ran first in 2008 and then again in 2012, dropped out of the race in late January, despite predictions that he could emerge as the Republican candidate in the primaries. Polling data from the first three weeks of the year suggested Romney held leads in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, as well as nationally. However, where Hillary Clinton is virtually guaranteed the Democratic nomination with a 61 point lead in the polls, the Republican primaries will be much more taxing, as Republican hopefuls shell out millions before the 2016 race even really begins.
While Romney dropped out for a variety of reasons—mental, physical and emotional health being just a few—I believe that his campaign performance during the 2012 election in particular contributed to his decision not to run again. Romney’s 2012 campaign has been described at “listless” and outmatched by Obama’s ground game. Where the Democratic Party was able to mobilize millions of voters, the GOP’s ground game relied on quantity not quality—the number of phone calls and door-to-door visits was high, but the message they sought to deliver fell flat. 2012 demonstrated an inability on Romney’s part to make use of the new media platforms Kreiss discusses in “Taking the Country Back.” While the DNC compiled voter databases that aggregated individual’s demographic and sociopolitical information, the GOP relied on the outdated system of automated voice messages, which were often met with angry hang-ups.
Furthermore, Romney failed to engage the netroots movement. According to Kreiss’ “Acting in the Public Sphere,” the netroots movement involves activist gathering online to reshape the Democratic Party, and has traditionally been characterized by harsh criticism of the GOP and the DNC—namely those “elite Democrats” that capitulate too easily to Republicans. Romney’s brand of conservatism was unable to reach younger generations, many of whom are involved in the netroots movement. When Obama coined “Romnesia,” referring to Romney’s flip-flopping on social issues, the term took off both on and off-line, tarnishing Romney’s image as a “severe conservative.” Romney’s politics did not allow him to win the favor of the netroots movement, while Obama was able to not only tap into the netroots network, but use it to take a jab at Romney’s message.
Romney would have faced not only a tough primary, but a tough race against Hillary Clinton, who is the favorite in recent polls. His defeat in the 2008 primaries and the 2012 presidential election surely weighed into his decision-making process for the 2016 election—he lacks the ground game, the message and support from the netroots movement, making the road to the presidency long, taxing and expensive, and I believe a contributing factor to his decision to leave the running.