The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

A Bad Idea, Thankfully Avoided


I’ll admit, it’s a rather grim Morning Jolt this Tuesday morning, looking at controversy over a Tweet from John McCain, a real controversy and outrage over a Tweet from Ron Paul, and then this bit of news out of Massachusetts:

Really, Nobody Was Up for a Game of Tagg

Okay, Boston Herald, you won Monday’s headline contest:

Tagg, you’re it for GOP Senate hopes

Our Katrina Trinko was hearing it too: “Despite press reports that Tagg Romney will not be running for Senate, a source close to Tagg Romney tells National Review Online that Tagg, the oldest son of Mitt and Ann Romney, and a prominent surrogate for his dad during the election, is seriously considering making a Senate run in Massachusetts — and expects to decide one way or another soon.”

But by the late afternoon, Tagg issued his statement:

“I have been humbled by the outreach I received this weekend encouraging me to become a candidate for the US Senate.  I love my home state and admit it would be an honor to represent the citizens of our great Commonwealth. However, I am currently committed to my business and to spending as much time as I can with my wife and children.  The timing is not right for me, but I am hopeful that the people of Massachusetts will select someone of great integrity, vision, and compassion as our next US Senator.”

This is probably for the best.

It’s not likely that the sneers about the GOP being the monarchist party would be worth the benefit of having candidate with a recognizable name and a presumably-decent network of donors.  (Yes, yes, I know the sneers will be coming from the Massachusetts Democratic Party, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Kennedy Family, Inc.)

Here’s the thing. If we had seen poll numbers indicating that Tagg Romney could win this thing, I would have been be much more enthusiastic. But we never saw any polling on any of the hypothetical match-ups, and I think Tagg Romney would have started the race pretty far behind.

I’ll let NPR lay out the Romney name’s standing in Massachusetts:

On the other hand … here are two numbers that might dissuade a candidacy by the 42-year-old venture capitalist: 34 and 23.

Thirty-four is Mitt Romney’s approval rating back in 2006, not long before he left the governor’s office. And 23 is how many percentage points President Obama beat Mitt Romney by in Massachusetts in the November election.

If Tagg Romney nevertheless enters the race, he’ll be following in his father’s footsteps. Recall that Mitt Romney also ran for Senate back in 1994 — which gives us a third number to mull over: 17. That’s how many percentage points incumbent Democrat Ted Kennedy won that race by.

And another thing: If his name was Tagg Smith, he would just be some guy who always gets asked why his first name is ‘Tagg.’ If Republicans had united behind him and nominated him, it would have been entirely because of his name and the belief that a lot of Republicans would be willing to give him money. There are four Republican state senators in Massachusetts, and… (spit-take) wait, what? Four? Four state senators out of 40? Are you kidding me? What, did you guys forget 2012 was an election year? You guys could literally meet in a phone booth, presuming that you’re not morbidly obese and that you can actually find a phone booth these days.

Anyway, Massachusetts Republicans have four state senators and thirty state representatives (out of 160). Had the party nominated Tagg, it would have amounted to a concession that at this moment, none of those 34 lawmakers, all of whom have won at least one more race than Tagg Romney has, have the potential to be another Scott Brown. None of them could use the circumstances of this special election to build name recognition and a base of support for a future race down the road.

I realize one of my recommendations for the GOP since November has been to stop conceding races and run the best candidate you can in every race you can. But on Monday, the lefty blogs were a lot more enthusiastic about a Tagg Romney campaign than the righty blogs were. Most of the conservative bloggers don’t know much about Tagg Romney. Knowing his father, he’s probably a very decent man. But that’s the whole point – the electorate’s entire perception of him will be shaped by their perceptions of his father. Barring some dramatic change, those perceptions of the father were never going to be good enough to sustain a successful statewide bid.

And I suspect the GOP grassroots that would be expected to help out Tagg for Senate 2013 with their time and money feel frustration at Mitt Romney for losing a race he should have won. Until Tagg Romney can come to Massachusetts Republicans with a reason to vote for him that doesn’t mention his father, it’s probably best to look elsewhere for a candidate – even if it means a little-known competitor with no extensive family-based fundraising network.

Tags: Massachusetts , Scott Brown , Tagg Romney


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