That’s not just a rhetorical question: In Mitt Romney’s heart of hearts, maybe all he really wanted was the Republican nomination.
Every time Romney gets an opportunity to reset the narrative of the election, he makes some psychologically revealing mistake. Giving Clint Eastwood his spotlight, rattling a rubber saber over a tweet from the US embassy in Cairo while it was under attack, writing off half of all American voters as moochers—you only have to tilt your head to see each of these “gaffes” as a cry for help. And Republicans themselves are grumbling about Romney’s skimpy schedule of public events, where real voters might take his measure and enthusiasm for a ground campaign could be generated.
“There’s not really a campaign here,” one Republican close to GOP fundraisers complained to Real Clear Politics. “He’s getting ready for the debates, and he’s out fundraising. You’ve got enough money!” Lindsey Graham and Peggy Noonan have also bemoaned his semi-AWOL schedule.
I can think of three good reasons Mitt might be psychologically satisfied with attaining the GOP nomination alone: avenging his father, legitimizing his religion and, well, winning the Republican nomination is generally very good for business.
When Mitt was 20 years old, he watched as his father, Michigan governor George Romney, blew his chance at the nomination in 1968 by saying he had been “brainwashed” into supporting the Vietnam war; that gave the far right all they needed to demolish Richard Nixon’s only progressive rival. For Mitt to win the nomination this year—despite his term as governor of Taxachussetts and his creation of the pilot version of Obamacare—is a remarkable accomplishment. During the primaries, the Tea Party crowd couldn’t stand him of course; they repeatedly elevated “anybody but Romney”—Trump, Gingrich, Perry, Cain, Gingrich again, Santorum—above him in the polls. But wielding his money and his “electability” Mitt eventually beat back just the sort of “muttonheads,” as he called the rabid right in ’68, who had humiliated his dad.