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Here Comes the Republican Opposition to Mitt Romney

Image: Mitt Romney, Ann Romney

Former Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney, left, walks on stage with his wife, Ann Romney, during an event celebrating the 52nd birthday of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014, in East Brunkswick, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) Julio Cortez / AP

For every action, there’s an opposite and equal reaction. And that’s true inside the Republican Party with Mitt Romney inching closer and closer to a third presidential bid. (Romney isn’t just talking about running; he’s making a ton of calls, even to former bitter ’08 rival John McCain.) While diehard Romney supporters are giddy about another White House run -- with one BOLDY claiming that ISIS wouldn’t exist and Putin would be cowed if Romney had won in ’12 (really?) -- other parts of the party aren’t so sure. Some Republicans are polite. “He got defined early, after he got through the nomination process, and they spent a lot of money to define him,” Sen. John Thune (R-SD) tells the New York Times’ Jonathan Martin. “And those issues are still there. That doesn’t change, and that narrative is still out there.” Others aren’t as nice. “You can say what you will about Jeb, but at least he can effectively communicate about policies that are going to have a material impact on people’s lives. Romney has proven he’s incapable of that,” GOP strategist Jim Dyke also tells the Times. Some are placing their bets with Jeb Bush. "I have great affection for Mitt Romney and his wife," GOP mega-donor Mel Sembler said, per the Tampa Bay Times. "They ran two very strong campaigns and I supported both of them. We wish him good luck, but I'm supporting my friend of many years, Jeb Bush." And others can’t forgive him for Romneycare becoming the basis for Obamacare. “It isn’t just because we lost and just because our base didn’t show up,” GOP donor Randy Kendrick tells the Daily Caller. “[I]t’s because he couldn’t fight against the primary thing that motivates me and motivates millions of other Republicans: Obamacare.”

Were the nice things Romney was hearing from Republicans since ’12 really sincere?

Now NBC’s Perry Bacon has other 2012 Romney backers saying they’re taking a wait-and-see approach. "I could certainly see myself doing that [backing Romney again]. But at this time, I'm uncommitted. We don't know who the field is yet," said Brian Kennedy, who was the chair of Romney’s 2012 Iowa campaign. Yet given the other negative comments above, you do have to wonder if some of the positive feedback Romney has been getting since the 2012 campaign was simply Republicans saying nice things to the defeated GOP presidential nominee -- rather than actually BELIEVING it. Was he mistaking hearing nice things for actual support? This is going to be the real test for Romney over the next few weeks: How honest is the feedback, and just how real is the groundswell that many of his close aides claim is there for him? And careful of the early polling -- of course, the former nominee will be at the top. But how does he go anywhere but down as others get in? And how will he handle not being the polling frontrunner when that time inevitably comes?

Romney to speak at RNC confab on Friday

Nevertheless, it appears that Romney is marching closer and closer to a run. As NBC News reported yesterday, Romney is now slated to speak on Friday at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting in San Diego. These will be Romney’s FIRST public comments since the word came out late last week that he was considering another presidential bid. Also speaking at the RNC winter meeting are Ben Carson and Scott Walker.

Rand on the attack

Here is how Rand Paul appears to be defining his GOP presidential opposition, and how he’s defining his own potential candidacy, according to an interview he did with Politico. Rand on Jeb: "He's been a proponent of Common Core, a proponent probably of a much bigger government - a Big Government Republican who believes more things should be occurring in Washington rather than decentralization.” On Mitt: "I think he could have been a good leader of the country. But I think many people are going to say, 'He's had his chance.'" And Rand on what the GOP needs in 2016: "You need a candidate who reaches out to new constituencies and is able to bring new people into the party. Because if we do the same old, same old candidates, we are going to get the same old result." As we mentioned yesterday, Romney and Bush (and maybe Christie) in the 2016 GOP field is VERY GOOD news for Rand Paul and Scott Walker, because it divides up the GOP establishment vote and donor base and allows them to present themselves as the new generation of the Republican Party. And the more time Romney and Bush (and maybe Christie) spend attacking each other, is less time they spend attacking Paul or Walker. By the way, Paul spends the day in New Hampshire, and he heads to Nevada later in the week.

Walker and Christie sure didn’t sound like your typical governors giving a “State of the State” address

Speaking of Walker, his “State of the State” address in Wisconsin last night certainly had some national -- and international -- themes to it. "Last week, innocent people were targeted in France by terrorists," Walker said. "These cowards are not symbols of confidence. They are overwhelmed by fear. They are afraid of freedom." More Walker: "Tonight, we must stand together — Democrat and Republican — and denounce those who wish to threaten freedom anywhere in this world. We need to proclaim that an attack against freedom-loving people anywhere is an attack against us all. And we will not allow it. When we take a stand, we will make it easier to work for freedom and prosperity — right here in Wisconsin." You don’t include international events in a State of the State unless … well, you know. Meanwhile, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s “State of the State” also looked well beyond New Jersey, NBC’s Andrew Rafferty writes. "We are a nation beset by anxiety, and it's understandable. Economic growth is low by post-war recovery standards. America's leadership in the world is called into question because of a pattern of indecision and inconsistency.”

Potential 2016 campaigns staffing up

There’s plenty of 2016 staffing news. The Washington Post notes that Obama media adviser Jim Margolis and Obama pollster Joel Benenson are leading the potential Team Hillary effort, while the Wall Street Journal has John Podesta being a senior official in her campaign (we’re told that job will be dealing with old and new Clinton guards, as well as being chief liaison to the Obama White House).… The New York Times says that former RGA Executive Director Phil Cox looks to be heading Chris Christie’s PAC… And the Washington Post reports that Rand Paul has his campaign manager for his likely 2016 White House bid: Chip Englander, who managed Republican Bruce Rauner’s successful gubernatorial campaign in Illinois last year.

Independents’ Day

Is this how Democrats living in red areas are looking to survive politically -- by running as independents? The Raleigh News and Observer: “When a state House member from the Outer Banks changed his political party to unaffiliated last week, it represented one more blow for an endangered species at the legislature: the rural, moderate Democrat. State Rep. Paul Tine left the Democratic Party just in time for the start of this year's legislative session, which begins at 9 a.m. Wednesday. Republicans welcomed his switch and will allow him to meet with them in private meetings where they'll discuss their legislative strategy and agenda.” The fact of the matter is this: The fastest growing political “party” in the country (and in just about every state) is the party of “unaffiliated” == but do these folks actually view themselves as centrists and will they gravitate to candidates who share their NON-affiliation?

Virginia is for lovers -- and for re-electing politicians currently sitting in jail

Already, one Virginia ex-governor is headed to prison. And now this: “Del. Joseph D. Morrissey on Tuesday won a special election to keep his seat in the 74th House of Delegates district, making him the first jailed lawmaker in modern Virginia history to win reelection,” the Richmond Times-Dispatch writes. “Morrissey, the Democrat-turned-independent, defeated Democrat Kevin Sullivan and Republican Matt Walton in spite of Morrissey's ongoing legal woes and controversy over his conviction for contributing to the delinquency of a minor... The lawmaker was sentenced in December to six months in jail after entering an Alford plea to a misdemeanor charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He was allowed to campaign at daytime under a work release order, but had to report back to jail by 8 p.m. Tuesday, said Henrico County Sheriff Mike Wade.” What are the specific charges? “There were the nude photos and explicit text messages that prosecutors said Morrissey and the girl exchanged — and a claim from the delegate that their phones had been hacked by the girl’s spurned lesbian ex-lover,” per the Washington Post.

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