House Republicans need a speaker. Their current speaker is quitting. The obvious next choice just dropped out of the race. The other obvious choice is telling anyone who'll listen that he won't run. And a bipartisan speaker just isn't going to happen.
House Republicans need Mitt Romney.
"I'm on my way" pic.twitter.com/sibIoslutO— Drew (@FigDrewton) October 8, 2015
I'll admit it: When I first proposed this to my colleagues it was just a joke. But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. And apparently it's an idea that House Republicans are already taking about!
So here's a case I didn't imagine I'd be making when I woke up on Wednesday; here's the case for Speaker Romney.
House Republicans have already endorsed him. Virtually every sitting House Republican endorsed Romney for president in 2012. They were willing to make Romney not just the leader of their party, but the leader of the country. If you can trust a man with nuclear weapons, you can probably trust him to manage floor debate.
Romney is good at building the kind of coalitions House Republicans need. Romney, remember, was the first Republican to win the party's presidential nomination after the rise of the Tea Party. The GOP was exceptionally fractured at that point, and Romney — who came from Massachusetts, had long identified as a moderate Republican, and had passed the precursor to Obamacare — still managed to win the nomination. That was an almost remarkable feat, and it's a skill set the House Republicans badly need.
Mitt Romney is very, very good at raising money. And raising money is a very big part of the speaker's job. John Boehner told Politico he spends between 180 and 190 nights on the road each year begging rich people to hand him their money. The speaker, Boehner said, needs to make sure Republicans "have the resources necessary to win."
But Boehner is an amateur fundraiser compared with Romney, who raised almost $400 million for his 2012 bid (and that doesn't include the hundreds of millions given to his allied Super PACs). With Romney in the speaker's chair, House Republicans would always have the resources necessary to win.
Mitt Romney was a management consultant who specialized in turning around failing organizations. And what are House Republicans right now but a failing organization? I tend to think the transferability of business skills to government is overstated, but, crucially, Republicans don't think that — one of the key arguments for Romney was he had the experience to run government more like a business. And the House Republican Conference needs to be run more like a business and less like a goat rodeo.
Romney is unusually good at both the inside game and the outside game. I argued recently that Boehner's resignation is part of a broader trend in American politics: The outside game is becoming relatively more important compared with the inside game. But Romney is good at both kinds of games.
On the inside game, we have hard evidence of Romney's talents. As Andrew Prokop wrote in his analysis of The Party Decides theory of presidential politics, "Romney's 2012 victory is the only race since 2000 in which ... a party made an early decision and got its way."
The outside game is a bit tougher. While Romney isn't known as the greatest campaigner of all time, the bar for presidential candidates is way, way higher than the bar for congressional leadership. I have heard Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and Mitch McConnell give speeches. Trust me, Romney is better at lighting up crowd or giving an interview than they are.
He can give Republicans a national figure able to oppose a Democratic president. Obviously Republicans would like to win in 2016. But they may lose! And they know it. If they lose, then Romney offers them something minority parties rarely have: a figure of national stature able to stand up to the president of the United States. And since Republicans are likely to keep their congressional majority even if a Democrat wins the presidency, it behooves them to have a strong speaker who can translate their control over the most powerful branch of government into public prestige.
He can give House Republicans a national figure able to oppose a Republican president. It's obvious why Republicans will need a strong negotiator if a Democrat wins the presidency. But the same may well be true if a Republican wins the White House. Congressional Republicans, after all, tend to represent safe, conservative districts while the president has a much broader constituency. So whether it's President Bush or Rubio or Trump or Fiorina, House Republicans are going to need a speaker who won't go squishy under presidential pressure. And that will be easier for the speaker has a public profile and a national base of his or her own, as Romney does.
Romney doesn't have a job right now. One of the problems Republicans are having getting candidates to run for speaker is their best prospects already have better jobs; Paul Ryan, for instance, loves being chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. But Romney is an unemployed 68-year-old, and given that he did his best to secure the most challenging job in the country, there's little reason to believe he's really ready for retirement.
So accept it. He's tanned, he's rested, and he's ready. Mitt Romney for speaker!