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Ditch The Frontrunners! How About Kerry Vs. Romney Instead?

Both the Democrats and the GOP face big issues internally. Tom Keane offers a modest proposal on behalf of the Bay State. Secretary of State John Kerry, pictured here on Dec. 17, 2015; and former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, pictured here on Jan. 16, 2015.
(Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Gregory Bull/ AP)
Both the Democrats and the GOP face big issues internally. Tom Keane offers a modest proposal on behalf of the Bay State. Secretary of State John Kerry, pictured here on Dec. 17, 2015; and former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, pictured here on Jan. 16, 2015. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Gregory Bull/ AP)
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Hey, America! Massachusetts here. You’re in trouble. Republicans are in disarray; Democrats can’t believe they’re heading for Clinton 2.0.

Don’t worry. The Bay State is standing by, ready to help.

For you Republicans, we offer up one Mitt Romney: well-coiffed business genius, former Bay State governor and former presidential nominee. And for you Democrats, we’ve got John Kerry: lantern-jawed war protester turned U.S. senator, present-day secretary of state and also, you’ll recall, a presidential nominee himself.

And in our dreams? Romney versus Kerry! Heck, even we aren’t sure who we’d vote for!

OK, actually, we do know how we’ll vote. After all, we are, as Jon Keller says, “the bluest state.” But for the rest of America? A toss-up.

Surely across the United States there are others to whom the parties might turn, right? Not really.

You may think this a fantasy but, in fact, the possibilities are quite real. Consider what’s going on with both sides of the aisle.

Turmoil grips the Republican Party, the primary process a shambles. Donald Trump rides high on the polls, currently fetching 40 percent or more. In second place is Sen. Ted Cruz. Trump may horrify party insiders but Cruz, to be frank, isn’t much better. In his brief tenure in the Senate, he has managed to alienate all of his colleagues — he’s “the most hated man in the Senate,” according to a profile in Foreign Policy magazine.

One doomsday scenario for the GOP is that either Trump or Cruz walks into the July convention in Cleveland with enough delegates to clinch the nomination. Another scenario, more probable but still scary, is that no candidate has a majority. If so, things can become a little crazy: We enter the world of a brokered convention.

The last time the GOP had a brokered election was 40 years ago. In 1976, then sitting President Gerald Ford battled it out with rising star Ronald Reagan. Back then, most delegates were comfortable with either choice (the nod eventually went to Ford, who then lost to Jimmy Carter).

This time around, things will be more chaotic. Trump or Cruz are flat-out unacceptable to many party regulars. As the convention goes through round after round of votes, convention managers will get increasingly desperate to find some figure around whom everyone can unite, someone trusted, someone — dare we say? — sane.

Who ya gonna call?

Mitt Romney!

Really. Since his loss four years ago, the 2012 nominee has worn well. His name constantly emerges in discussions by Republicans frustrated by their party’s current field. Indeed, a November poll found New Hampshire Republicans would prefer a hypothetical Romney candidacy by a wide margin over the real candidacies of Donald Trump, Ben Carson and others. He’s well known and, obviously, experienced in the ways of campaigning. Critically, he probably wouldn’t fatally alienate any key GOP constituency — something that could not be said for the current GOP frontrunners.

Meanwhile, Democrats face their own problems. Admittedly, the worries are less severe. Hillary Clinton is odds-on the nominee. Her only credible opponent is Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, but her current standing in national polls overwhelms his. She has well over 50 percent of support from Democrats nationwide with some polls putting her at close to 60 percent. In all likelihood she walks into the convention with enough delegates to get a first-round victory.

And yet. Clinton polarizes, with some of the weakest favorability ratings imaginable; more people dislike her than like her. She appalls many on the left the same way Trump and Cruz appall the right. “Indifferent to truth, willing to use police-state tactics and vulgar libels against inconvenient witnesses, hopeless on health care, and flippant and fast and loose with national security,” wrote commentator Christopher Hitchens — and that was in 2008, before Benghazi, before the email scandal, before Humagate! Does the past somehow catch up with her? Does she show up at the Democrats’ own July convention — this one in Philadelphia — fatally weakened, with the party craving an alternative?

Enter John Kerry.

Massachusetts, with a scant 2 percent of the nation’s population, has always fought above its weight when it comes to politics.

You laugh, and I understand why. Even in Massachusetts, Kerry has never drawn much love. His aloofness, stentorian tones and seeming humorlessness were never endearing and one can imagine Bay Staters collectively grimacing as they contemplate another Kerry presidential run.

Yet in 2004 the man almost beat George W. But for New Mexico and Ohio — both narrow wins for the Republican — Kerry would have been president. Might he manage it 12 years later?

Perhaps you think this is parochialism run amok. Surely across the United States there are others to whom the parties might turn, right? Not really. But hyper-liberal Taxachusetts, you ask? That shouldn’t surprise. Massachusetts, with a scant 2 percent of the nation’s population, has always fought above its weight when it comes to politics. It’s been true since the country’s inception — after all, we started the revolution — and we’ve remained deeply engaged in the great experiment over the last 240 years. We’re the home of presidents (the Adamses, Coolidge, Kennedy), nominees (Kerry and Romney, of course), influential pols (Elizabeth Warren being the most recent) and big ideas (national health care, education reform, same-sex marriage).

We’re Massachusetts, waiting in the wings, ready to answer America’s call.

Related:

Tom Keane Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
Tom Keane is a Boston-based writer.

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