This is no way to start another campaign.

Photographer: David Ryder/Getty Images

Mitt Romney, You're No Ronald Reagan

Albert R. Hunt is a Bloomberg View columnist. He was the executive editor of Bloomberg News, before which he was a reporter, bureau chief and executive Washington editor at the Wall Street Journal.
Read More.
a | A

I’m not sure how Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign will fare -- mark me down as skeptical -- but the rationale invoked by some of his allies that the third time is the charm, channeling Ronald Reagan, is a non-starter.

Romney, who failed to win the Republican nomination in 2008, won it in 2012 and lost the general election, is signaling he could run again. In an effort to respond to criticism from would-be rivals such as Senator Rand Paul, who said that Romney is “yesterday’s news,” aides to the former Massachusetts governor point out that Ronald Reagan ran three times before he finally won.

Yes, Reagan lost the nomination fight to President Gerald Ford in 1976 before winning it in 1980, but the 1968 attempt that's being counted as his first time wasn’t genuine.

That year, Reagan announced his candidacy on the opening day of the Republican Convention, when Richard Nixon had the nomination virtually sewn up. Reagan, the conservative, and Nelson Rockefeller, the liberal, tried to cut a stop-Nixon deal, but it failed. Some Reagan lieutenants had been pushing his candidacy for months but the California governor never campaigned for it.

There are models that Romney could invoke as proof that the third time is the charm. Kansas Senator Bob Dole unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination in 1980 and 1988. He  finally won it in 1996, though he lost the general election to Bill Clinton. But Dole's name doesn't resonate with the party faithful the way Ronald Reagan's does. 

Another example Romney could use is Harold Stassen, once the “boy wonder” of American politics who later became something of a political joke when he unsuccessfully sought the Republican political nomination nine times.

It’s a safe bet that neither Romney nor his aides will mention Stassen.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Albert R. Hunt at ahunt1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Max Berley at mberley@bloomberg.net