Romney’s role: Speak your mind
It is, perhaps, only fitting that former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney chose a New Hampshire event to make his first public appearance after last November’s election defeat at the hands of President Barack Obama.
Romney was the primary attraction at a state GOP fundraiser attended by about 200 party faithful in Wolfeboro on Tuesday night and, even better, he came bearing gifts.
Romney and The Granite State go back a long way, to at least 1997, when the then-CEO of Bain Capital bought a large waterfront house on Lake Winnipesaukee in Wolfeboro.
Just over 10 years later, Romney finished second to John McCain in the 2008 New Hampshire presidential primary in what was merely a warmup to 2012, when he carried the state Republican primary with 39 percent of the vote in a large field.
That helped catapult Romney to his party’s nomination and last fall’s bruising general-election defeat to Obama, a contest that Romney – by all accounts – thought for sure he would win right up until election night.
Romney faded into the background afterward, granting a few interviews but making no public political appearances before Tuesday.
According to remarks released by his office, Romney told the donors that “I’m probably not the first person you’d ask for advice,” given the results of the last election. “But because we all learn from our mistakes, I may have a thought or two of value.”
He did, taking aim at those Republicans who think refusing to raise the debt ceiling – resulting in a possible government shutdown – might be a worthwhile trade-off if it chokes off funding for Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
“I badly want Obamacare to go away, and stripping it of funds has appeal. But we need to exercise great care about any talk of shutting down government,” said the former Massachusetts governor. “What would come next when soldiers aren’t paid, when seniors fear for their Medicare and Social Security, and when the FBI is off duty?”
Bad idea, said Romney, without mentioning senators Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz or Mike Lee, among three who are pushing the strategy.
“I’m afraid that in the final analysis, Obamacare would get its funding, our party would suffer in the next elections, and the people of the nation would not be happy,” he said. “I think there are better ways to remove Obamacare.”
If it’s true that candidates somehow have a way of looking just a little better in the rear-view mirror, Romney may be only the most recent example of that. And it’s a view enhanced by the fact that the man who defeated him seems to be spinning his wheels, unable to extricate himself from the mud of Washington partisanship.
But Romney’s comments also are consistent with a man who can now speak his mind because he no longer is in courting mode. He always conducted himself with a dignity that reflected well on his party – even if he was always viewed with a certain amount of suspicion by the party’s far right wing – but he’s no longer encumbered with the weight of being a suitor.
That alone makes him particularly valuable in the role of party fundraiser and sensible consiglieri, even if his remarks in Wolfeboro aren’t likely to allay the suspicions of those conservatives within the GOP who never really trusted him.