If Romney had won in 2012, would he be re-electable today?

Let’s imagine Romney had won in 2012. Based on a realistic assessment of how his presidency would have fared (and I mean objectively, non-partisan, realistic, not “Romney would have sent this country into a Great Depression II,”) how do you think his re-electoral chances would be today?
Could he fend off a Trump primary challenge?

He’d probably beat Bernie, but could he defeat Hillary?

The first factor that comes to mind is war-weariness, given that a Republican president (whoever he was) would have doubled down rather than winding down the Middle East adventure.

Mitt Romney was a pragmatist posing as a committed conservative. I’d like to say he might have drawn a primary challenge, but things probably would have been going too well to make one viable. I think he’d be reelected easily.

Doubt he would have been a bad president. Romney would have had a good chance of being reelected president. I don’t think Trump or anyone would have mounted a primary challenge to Romney. Doing so would have been certain defeat for anyone challenging Romney, same as for Ted Kennedy in 1980 when he stupidly tried to oust Jimmy Carter.

Two things have to happen for a sitting President to lose a primary challenge:

  1. He has to be unpopular with the electorate
  2. He has to be unpopular with a large part of the base

Carter was probably close enough on #2 to justify a primary challenge, I think it’s more that Ed Kennedy was a terrible candidate due to his baggage than anything else. How could Democrats ever look themselves in the mirror for nominating a guy who killed someone in a drunk driving incident? A better candidate might have toppled Carter.

LBJ though, he was definitely on the way to losing a primary challenge and declined to continue to seek reelection because of it.

It’s unlikely that Romney would face either problem had he been elected. There would have been some grumbling from Tea Party types, but he’d probably be doing just fine.

Romney would be an incumbent and the smart money’s always on the incumbent to get re-elected. I don’t think Trump would have tried challenging a sitting president and if he had, I don’t see him having any success.

I don’t know if Clinton would have run. I’m sure she’s aware of the difficulty of defeating an incumbent. But at her age, she might not have been willing to wait until 2020.

Sanders almost certainly would have run. He started out as a message candidate who didn’t care if he actually got nominated. And Romney seems to represent the kind of politics that Sanders is opposing.

I dunno. The set of counterfactuals that would have needed to pertain in order for him to have won in 2012 strike me as impossible to assess whether he would have been able to meet the challenges they represented.

I think this is a really tough hypothetical. Romney is a rational adult with broad experience. But he’s chained to conservative ideology as well as being the oligarch’s choice- he is an oligarch.

What would have been the effects of four more years of military adventurism in the Middle East? Troops in Iraq, troops in Syria, probably troops in Libya, potentially war with Iran (where else was that conflict going without a negotiation?) So, the deficit goes through the roof and there continues to be body bags and limbless soldiers on TV every day. The VA staggers even worse than today, by far. The national mood is, “Thanks a bunch, W!”

Could any amount of successful domestic policy overcome the negatives of GOP foreign policy? First, “successful domestic policy” would have been limited by GOP ideology. The public would still be languishing under an abusive health insurance system, imperfect as the ACA is, too. Taxes would be lower than they are now, but probably in a regressive way, aggravating the deficit and highlighting America’s oligarchic drift. OWS would have had far more fuel with which to catch fire.

So, what positives from there? Obama hasn’t really succeeded in his efforts for a national infrastructure rehabilitation. Under Romney circumstances, could he have done it, even if he wanted to? Probably not. Rather, I see cuts in food stamps and general austerity policies to pay for the wars. I don’t see what is so great about austerity for the sake of treading water- at least European countries can claim to be correcting their long-term problems with such policies.

There are probably positives I am not seeing. Good question of an OP. I’d be interested in being told specifically why I am wrong and why things would be better than my glum view.

If Romney had been elected in 2012, then Obama would be eligible for a second (non-consecutive) term. Suppose Romney’s first term exposed GOP vulnerabilities or inspired nostalgia among the voters for the Obama years 2009–2012. Then it’s a flawed premise that only Bernie and Hillary would be vying for the nomination.

While it’s an interesting thought, I don’t see this happening. The last Democratic or Republican candidate to have lost an election and later be nominated again was Nixon. The last one to come close was Humphrey, four years later.

For better or worse, I don’t think that’s possible under the modern primary system.

That said, I think you’d have seen something like 17 Democrats running for the nomination. It’s possible that Clinton would come out on top. Maybe not.

Trump would not have run in 2016 if Romney was the incumbent now unless Romney’s presidency was an unmitigated failure in a direction that favored Trump’s message. Trump has been waiting and watching for at least 2 electoral cycles. IRL Trump chose 2016 because that’s the year the stars aligned. Had Romney won in 2012 and done acceptably by mainstream R standards, 2016 would not have had aligned stars. And hence no Trump. Yet.

The conventional Tea Party[sup]1[/sup] would probably have launched a token protest candidate in 2016. Fully expecting him to lose the 2016 nomination to incumbent Romney, but to meanwhile raise the profile of the Tea Party within the overall R tent. And ideally to help some down-ticket TP candidates primary their respective mainstream R candidates.

The D side of this scenario is a bit more interesting. But also much fuzzier. Even under a truly awful (from the D perspective) Romney presidency it seems implausible they’d re-nominate Obama after he lost the general in 2012. The time interval between 2012 & 2016 would have had more opportunity for other D presidential candidates to come out of the woodwork than it did IRL with Obama in charge.

OTOH, Hillary would still be a NY senator, Bill’s shadow would still spread over the party, as would Obama’s. To the degree Obama was still well thought of, he & Bill would be the party kingmakers. If they anointed Hillary, Hillary it would be. If not, probably not.

  1. The idea the Tea Party is now “conventional” shows just how far off the norm the total R party has become.

Why would Clinton be a Senator? She resigned her Senate seat in 2008 to become Secretary of State. Presumably she would still have been SoS in 2012 as she was historically.

Clinton’s window closes this year. I think she would have run against Romney.

My error. :smack: I had mistakenly recalled she had become SecState early in Obama’s second term, not first. In effect I’d glued Robert Gate’s history as SecDef onto the SecState role and onto her resume. Shoulda double-checked if I was fuzzy on the details.

You make it sound like this was Reagan vs. Mondale.
Romney was only 5% away from Obama. Any of a dozen different factors could have closed that gap. A stronger performance by Romney in the 2nd and 3rd debates, a doubly severe Hurricane Sandy, an even worse economy, a gaffe or error by Obama, etc.

Agreed. If Romney’s 47% comment had never leaked that alone would have been huge on the popular vote. Whether it would have moved the EC enough is more work to analyze than I’m willing to put in this morning.

We have no idea how Romney would have turned out as president. We really don’t know how any of them will do before they get the job. Romney would have done what all presidents do, spend their first term running for re-election, since the 50s that would result in them being a lame duck in their next term, and that had no apparent change to the process. It usually works. Odds favor Romney being re-elected.

It’s really hard to tell. I remember the 92 election where Clinton defeated Bush. Before the election, everyone though Bush could not be defeated. I remember a Saturday Night Live skit called Campaign '92: The Race to Avoid Being the Guy Who Loses to Bush (transcript) where the Democratic candidates were all trying to get out of having to run because they knew they would lose. But as we we saw, Bush did lose.

If Romney had won in 2012, I think he would win again in 2016 for the same reasons Bush II won his second term. Romney would have us fighting actively in many places in the Middle East and the population is reluctant to switch leaders during fighting. Plus, all that fighting would stoke the fears of people that we are under attack and that we would need to be even stronger militarily. That would likely mean people would go for a more conservative government and keep the R’s in office.

Do you know anyone, or have you heard of anyone, that changed their vote based on that comment? Stuff like that ends up getting a lot of media attention, but I’m kinda sceptical it makes an actual difference.

Most of the changed votes fallout from a gaffe like that would be changes from voting for Romney to staying home. You can bet many of the folks now chanting for Trump did not cast a vote for Romney in 2012.

Yes, they didn’t vote for Obama either. They didn’t vote at all.