In theory, there's nothing stopping Mitt Romney from seeking elected office again. He has vast wealth, high name recognition, and an eagerness to serve, and came relatively close to winning the presidency a few weeks ago.
But at this point, Romney would be lucky to get his own allies to return his phone calls. The failed candidate caused a stir last week when he told donors President Obama won re-election because he bribed women and minorities with "big gifts," such as health care and education. Several prominent figures on the right denounced the comments, but on the Sunday shows, Republicans piled on.
Mitt Romney, who just two weeks ago was the Republican Party's standard-bearer, seen by many as the all-but-elected president of the United States, has turned into a punching bag for fellow Republicans looking to distance themselves from his controversial "gifts" remark. [...]Whether it's an instance of politicians smelling blood in the water as the party, following Romney's defeat, finds itself without a figurehead, or genuine outrage, a number of Republicans have eagerly castigated their former nominee.
Josh Marshall said the GOP pushback amounted to "Lord of the Flies" treatment, which seems like an apt comparison.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) again helped lead the charge -- "If we want people to like us, we have to like them first," he said on Fox News -- but this was no small chorus. Newt Gingrich called Romney's comments "nuts" and "insulting." Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham (R), and Carlos Gutierrez, Romney's director of Hispanic outreach, joined in with similar condemnations.
On ABC, conservative columnist George Will lowered the boom: "It's been well said that you have a political problem when the voters don't like you, but you've got a real problem when the voters think you don't like them.... Quit despising the American people."
There are two larger angles to this that are worth keeping in mind.
First, the speed with which Romney has gone from "national leader of the Republican Party" to "political pariah" is truly incredible. It's not unusual for an unsuccessful presidential candidate to hear grumbling from within his or her own party after a defeat, but I can't think of any modern instance in which a major-party nominee has been trashed this much, this quickly.
It's hard not to get the impression that the Republican establishment merely tolerated Romney's candidacy for much of 2012, and now that he's lost, officials are more comfortable expressing their barely-hidden contempt.
Second, I hope the political world doesn't overlook the notion that these GOP condemnations of Romney probably aren't entirely sincere. After all, Romney's "gifts" comments, while phrased in a clumsy and offensive way, were pretty consistent with contemporary conservative thought. Indeed, they echo Romney's infamous "47 percent" video, which many on the right cheered after the tape was released in September.
In other words, there's reason to believe Republicans were looking for an excuse to distance themselves from their failed candidate, and "gifts" offered a pretense for the party to do what it wanted to do anyway.