Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.) said that Mitt Romney should “never” run for president again, because he doesn’t make the “visceral connection” with voters necessary to win a general election.
“I’m kind of with Ann Romney on this one: no, no, no, no, never,” Paul told ABC’s Jonathan Karl during a panel discussion with Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) and Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.).
“To win the presidency you have to reach out and appeal to new constituencies and I just don’t think it’s possible and if we think, well, I’m just going to change a few themes and next time I’ll reach out to new people,” Paul continued, after complimenting Romney as a good man who would have done a better job than President Obama.
“I think it’s a little more visceral than that, how you connect with people, and I don’t think it’s anybody’s fault, I’m just not sure that that visceral connection is there with enough people to win a general election,” he said.
Paul’s response was more blunt than Rubio’s, who refused to “Monday morning quarterback” Romney’s 2012 race. Karl opened the conversation by asking if Romney would have won if he had campaigned on the three pillars that would animate his hypothetical 2016 bid — “ending poverty, empowering the middle class, and national security,” in Karl’s words.
Rubio restated the question, with an addition (my emphasis). “If he had run on those three pillars, would he have won against Barack Obama? I don’t know,” he said. “Mitt Romney I think is an extraordinary person. I thought he ran the best race he possibly could, it didn’t work out.” Rubio then added that Romney has “earned the right” to make this decision.
Rubio’s answer is interesting because it sounds so much like what you hear from former Romney aides: Obama’s incumbency, combined with his decision to reject federal funding and raise massive amounts of money for his reelection, made him uniquely difficult to beat. That’s not to say that Rubio is a secret booster for Romney’s campaign. But Rubio is thinking of running, himself — perhaps he hopes to win the allegiance of Romney donors who still think highly of the former GOP nominee.