This is really quite funny, though I should mention that I have argued semi-seriously in the past that Romney ran for president in 2008 as a member of the wrong party. Assuming that he only was running to be president, and that no other particular policies mattered to him, the smarter political move for Mitt Romney to have made in 2005 would have been to switch parties and run for president as a Democrat on the basis of his unique experience implementing a universal health care system, and pledging to do the same nationwide. The contrast with Hillary Clinton, who conspicuously failed to do the same thing, would have been notable. What’s more, he would have had an intriguing narrative: a moderate Republican who was (theoretically) outraged by Bush’s policies and attitude of intolerance, who then bolted parties. I think there’s reason to think this pitch would have been effective since one of the more desperate tendencies of the left during the ’00s, when confronted by the reality of an utterly hapless Democratic opposition, was to build up/fantasize about Republicans finally deciding they’ve had enough of Bush and his arrogance and incompetence and standing up against him. This played a part in McCain’s transcendent popularity, at least for a while. Romney could well have been the incarnation of this trend. No doubt there would have been some serious qualms about his business record and personal history in progressive circles, but it’s not hard to imagine him making a much more competitive race against Clinton/Obama/Edwards than against McCain/Huckabee that year. Having executive experience when none of the three top Democrats did would have set him apart, and he could have smacked down Obama’s opposition to the mandate far more effectively than Clinton ever did.

While this idea is sort of kind of fun to think about, I think it pretty clear by now why it couldn’t have happened: Romney does, sadly, actually have some values. Mitt Romney might actually have been able to be an effective Democratic President, if he’d handled the party switch smoothly. Certainly it would have been a cleaner path than reversing himself on every issue, renouncing most of the public policy positions he’d ever taken, and then pandering insincerely and often ineffectively for six years to try to run a party that is, well, really not worth running at this time. But he wanted to be a Republican President, and his off-the-record comments to fundraisers provide some easy-to-interpret hints as to why he wanted that.

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