Writing in the Daily Beast last week, Romney strategist Stu Stevens sought to explain why Mitt Romney opted out of a third presidential bid. “Running for president is a lot like trying to make it to the Super Bowl,” Stevens said. “It’s terribly difficult to get there and once you do, half the teams lose.”
Putting aside the fact that the team from Boston won, this analogy rings true.
First, consider the work that goes into making it to the playoffs. It begins in the off-season, but let’s put that aside. Grueling practices and preseason games start five months before the big game. But no matter how well you prepare, you don’t really control your own destiny, because forces beyond your control — a bad call or bounce — are often the difference between winning and losing. (Along those lines, one could argue that the Green Bay Packers and Baltimore Ravens should have been playing last night — instead of Patriots and Seahawks.)
Let’s say you actually make it to the Super Bowl, and then do all the hard work and preparation required for success. It still might come down to something silly like throwing an interception (instead of simply handing it to Marshawn Lynch).
Like the Super Bowl, general elections are a winner-take-all game. It doesn’t matter if you lose by one point — or a million. History doesn’t really care why you lost, or how valiantly you tried. If you lose, you’re a loser. If you win, you’re a winner.
Now maybe you merely won because the other guy missed a field goal. Doesn’t matter. Maybe you only lost because of a bad call. Who cares? Presidential elections are similar. Sure, winning your party’s nomination — just like making it to the Super Bowl — is theoretically an honor, but it’s also a rather dubious distinction. If you lose, you’re a loser.
Back to Romney. We’re still in the preseason phase of the game. Romney knew that to make it to the Super Bowl, he’d have to win 10 or 11 “games” (maybe these are debates or financial reporting quarters, or…whatever) and then, after a season of heartbreaks and bad calls and fumbles, he could still lose the big game by a point and be branded a loser.
This decision to sit out was a no-brainer.