Nobody can remember a presidential primary fight quite like this one. But people are sure trying. Pundits and armchair historians are offering a parade of analogies to past candidates and campaigns. Sometimes the comparisons work, and sometimes they strain credulity. Here, some past presidential candidates that bear at least some passing similarity to Romney 2012:
- John Kerry
The similarities between Romney and the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee are almost eerie, says Anjeanette Damon in the Las Vegas Sun. “Here are the easy ones”: Kerry’s a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, Romney was its governor; each comes from wealth and privilege and attended Harvard; both are “lacking in interpersonal skills and are awkward campaigners”; and of course, both are derided as serial “flip-floppers,” and have “perpetually camera-ready hair.” More to the point, just like Kerry in 2004, Romney is seen by his party as “a good fit for the political atmosphere,” with the right résumé to take on a vulnerable incumbent hated by his base.
- George H.W. Bush
The former president and Romney are so similar that the comparisons dominated a recent episode of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, says Michael Shear in The New York Times. Bush and Romney are both malaprop-prone, wealthy Republicans whose family ties helped them get ahead in politics, but who later “struggled to earn the trust of the conservatives” in the Republican Party. And Romney’s “disconnect with working-class voters is eerily familiar” to anyone who remembers Bush’s campaigns: For Romney, the out-of-touch gaffes include casual $10,000 bets and palling around with NASCAR team owners. For Bush, the famous episode was his reported “amazement over a grocery store scanner in 1992.”
- Bob Dole
Some conservative commentators are publicly fretting that after this long, punishing primary, “Romney’s public image is now defined by a word never associated with winning presidential campaigns — weakness,” say John F. Harris and Jonathan Martin at Politico. The fear is that “once a politician takes on an aroma of hopelessness, he keeps it,” like the GOP’s 1996 nominee. Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole “limped to his nomination with few people expecting he would make a real race of it against Clinton, and he never did.” And neither Dole nor Romney appear to have the “creativity and keen intuition under pressure” needed to turn the narrative around.
- Bill Clinton
Romney’s political “poison doesn’t have to be permanent” — just ask Bill Clinton, says Steve Kornacki at Salon. At this point in 1992, Clinton was more unpopular than Romney is now; like Romney, he became the “frontrunner after the party’s entire A-list roster passed on the race,” and both candidates have faced “limited voter enthusiasm and loud calls for a white knight candidate.” And when it comes to foreign policy, says Noah Millman at The American Conservative, candidate Clinton and Romney both opted for “hawkish posturing” and “shameless positioning” rather than serious ideas. If elected, Romney would probably govern like Clinton, too: “A lot of gratuitously alienating bombast around a policy aimed at short-term political considerations.”
Three more comparisons