For a moment on Monday afternoon, the buzz about a Tagg Romney Senate bid in Massachusetts seamed real.
Then, soon after 5 p.m. today, Mitt Romney’s eldest son bowed out.
“I have been humbled by the outreach I received this weekend encouraging me to become a candidate,” Romney wrote in an e-mail to reporters. “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,” he added. “But I am hopeful that the people of Massachusetts will select someone of great integrity, vision, and compassion as our next U.S. Senator.”
Romney’s decision is understandable. If he had run, he would have faced the formidable task of collecting 10,000 certified signatures from state voters by February 27.
But many Republicans were hoping he’d be the candidate who’d give the state party a fighting chance of winning back a Senate seat in deep-blue Massachusetts. Former GOP senator Scott Brown’s defeat last year devastated the state party, and the Republican farm team is small.
Romney, a sharp and amiable surrogate for his father, had conservatives excited. Indeed, while the 42-year-old venture capitalist’s name may have never been on a ballot, he’s no stranger to politics. #more#A decade ago, Romney served as the campaign manager for Kerry Healey, who was the Commonwealth’s lieutenant governor during Mitt Romney’s tenure as governor. When Mitt Romney first ran for president, Tagg quit his job as head of marketing for the Los Angeles Dodgers to work on his dad’s campaign. In the 2012 presidential campaign, Tagg was a regular surrogate for his dad, and according to reports, an active player behind the scenes.
“He’s someone who, like his father, thinks about serving others and would certainly make a great candidate if he ever decided to run for office,” says Ryan Williams, a GOP consultant who has worked on and off for Mitt Romney for ten years, most recently as a press secretary during his presidential campaign.
But the Romney family’s long involvement in politics would have meant certain obstacles. The Romney name isn’t what it used to be in Massachusetts: Mitt Romney received a mere 38 percent of the vote in Massachusetts in the presidential race — a significant drop from the 50 percent he received when he was elected as governor in 2002. Furthermore, whoever wins the special election will only hold the seat for a year: Tagg Romney would have run in this year’s special election to fill now–secretary of state John Kerry’s seat, then faced another regular race for the seat next year.
Looking ahead, assuming a Republican doesn’t win this year’s special election, it might make more sense for the younger Romney to wait until the 2014 election, should he want to enter politics. His father’s presidential race wouldn’t be so fresh in Bay State denizens’ minds. Waiting a year could also be optimal for Romney personally, who has six children with his wife, Jen, including twins born in May.
But before he even thinks about a 2014 bid, state-party operatives will need to overcome Massachusetts’s reluctance to put a Republican in federal office. (Mitt Romney’s first run, a Senate bid in 1994 against Ted Kennedy, resulted in Mitt’s losing by 17 points.) “This year’s race will be a very tough race for any Republican, as every race is in Massachusetts,” Williams says. “You need to have a perfect campaign in order to win in the Bay State as a Republican.”
“It’s easier to run for governor because you can run against Beacon Hill, which is the corrupt Democratic political machine at the state house,” Williams adds. “It’s much more difficult to run as a federal candidate because the Democrats will inevitably tie you to the national party, which is quite unpopular in Massachusetts.”
Despite the chatter, however, Massachusetts Republicans always had mixed feelings about the prospect of Tagg’s entry. “He would start out with a relatively damaged brand,” says a Republican state committeeman, who asked to remain anonymous in order to speak freely. There is a “natural fatigue” with the Romney name after Mitt’s failed presidential bid.
“I would prefer to see Senator Brown jump into the race, but barring that, I would love to see someone from our party step forward and throw their hat in the ring,” adds Judy Crocker, a Republican state committeewoman.
But Brown, too, has declined to run this year. And Tagg’s not it.