As Democrats avoid Obama, Romney is in demand on the midterm campaign trail
President Obama thumped Mitt Romney in the 2012 election, but now their political standings seem reversed. During a summer in which Democratic candidates are keeping their distance from an unpopular president, Romney is emerging as one of the Republican Party’s most in-demand campaign surrogates.
Over three days in mid-August, Romney will campaign for GOP Senate and gubernatorial candidates in West Virginia, North Carolina and Arkansas, aides said. In September, he is planning visits to the presidential swing states of Colorado and Virginia.
Romney is filling up his October schedule, as well. Senate hopefuls in Iowa and New Hampshire are eager for him to return before November’s midterms, while Romney is weighing trips to other Senate battlegrounds. At least one high-profile Senate campaign said it has produced a television advertisement featuring Romney ready to air in the fall.
“Democrats don’t want to be associated with Barack Obama right now, but Republicans are dying to be associated with Mitt Romney,“ said Spencer Zwick, a longtime Romney confidant who chaired his national finance council.
For a party without a consensus leader — nor a popular elder statesman like Democratic former president Bill Clinton — Romney is stepping forward in both red and blue states to fill that role for the GOP.
“There’s a pretty big void in the party right now for national leaders, and Romney’s in a unique position, having been around the track, to help fill that void,“ said Scott Reed, a veteran GOP strategist who oversees the US Chamber of Commerce’s political operation.
Romney continues to deny interest in a third presidential run in 2016, but his moves have his supporters yearning for him to give it a go and arguing that he would be a stronger candidate than last time.
Supporters also point to Obama’s struggles on crises ranging from his health-care law to Russian aggression to conflict in the North African country of Mali — all issues Romney raised in the 2012 campaign — and say time has proved Romney right.
Obama won the popular vote 51 percent to 47 percent in 2012, but a CNN/ORC International poll this past week showed Romney winning 53 percent to 44 percent if a rematch were held today. The same poll showed Romney losing to former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton 55 percent to 42 percent in a hypothetical 2016 matchup.
Democratic strategists said GOP candidates who appear with Romney in their states are misreading voters.
“He is a walking, talking caricature of a Republican Party that favors only the very rich and big powerful corporations at a cost to middle-class families,“ said Matt Canter, deputy executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
But in the minds of many Republican operatives and financiers, Romney stands apart from the others because he appears above the fray and without any overt personal ambition. He is also one of the few national Republicans who can raise significant amounts of money and capture the attention of voters in most GOP blocs.
After a retreat into seclusion following his 2012 loss, Romney’s reemergence on the political stage coincides with a softening of his public image. And last week, Romney posted widely shared pictures on social mediashowing him, wife Ann and five of their 22 grandchildren hiking, swimming and rock climbing during a summer tour of national parks in the West.
Romney insisted to reporters he would not run: “The unavailable is always the most attractive, right? That goes in dating, as well.“