Even before the polls opened for Tuesday's election, a small team of Romney strategists were working on a contingency plan to run the candidate as a left-wing Democrat in the 2016 election, should he lose his race on the Republican ticket. According to aides who spoke under condition of anonymity, the operation, which has been referred to only as "Plan D," went into full gear late Tuesday night, as strategists began crafting talking points for a "severely liberal" Romney campaign and reviewing extensive opposition research on likely Republican contenders in 2016, beginning with Wisconsin Congressman and recent Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan.
"We don't like to boast, but I think we've constructed one of the broadest, deepest, and most damaging files on Congressman Ryan in the history of opposition research," an aid said, citing an unprecedented database of quotes, past positions and personal history. The team also claims to have potentially harmful footage of Ryan in behind-the-scenes discussions, caught on camera speaking candidly in a fashion that could create an "October surprise," should Ryan become the next Republican nominee.
For most Romney supporters, Tuesday night was a time for licking wounds and solemn reflection, having lost the presidential race handily and seen the candidate's party fail to make gains in congress. But Plan D strategists say in truth Romney hasn't been this optimistic about his presidential prospects in years. "The governor never sees things in a negative light, that's just not how he is," an operative said. "While the rest of the GOP looked at the Senate races in this election and saw their efforts to reclaim the chamber thwarted by Democratic upsets in Missouri, Massachusetts and Wisconsin, Governor Romney saw a three-ring binder of potential running mates in 2016."
Strategists involved in the operation brushed aside suggestions that the shift in party and ideology could be viewed as an "Etch-a-Sketch" moment, reaffirming the portrayal of Romney as a flip-flopping opportunist lacking core values who will do anything to become president. "I think the American people will see past catch-phrases like 'Etch-a-Sketch,'" an aid said. "It may have worked for his opponents in this year's primary and general election, but what I think we're going to see now that the election is over is that we can essentially hit a 'clear-screen' button on all of those catch-phrases, and start off with a clean slate."
The Romney campaign took strides early on to avoid taking stances that could be at odds with a future Democratic run. "The governor has consistently stressed that he does not think his Massachusetts healthcare plan should be a model for the nation," the aid said. "He plans to believe in 2016 that the only viable solution is a purely nationalized healthcare system, like those in Canada and much of Europe."
Having sized up potential primary opponents in the Democratic party, such as Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, strategists concluded that the best angle for Romney would be to run as a youthful, fresh-faced outsider who can bring apathetic young voters off of the sidelines and out to the polls. "What a lot of people may not know is that we already have an entire staff dedicated to spray-tanning and hair maintenance. So the advantage we have is an infrastructure in place to make this a smooth transition to Romney as the youth candidate." The aid added that many younger voters have never seen an Etch-a-Sketch, putting a damper on that line of attack by his opponents. "We will appeal to a more tech-savvy, modern demographic."
Romney personally denied any specific plans for 2016. "I won't comment on future races, those will take place in the future," he said when questioned by a pool reporter outside Boston Headquarters. "But gosh, I was just listening to Kanye West, and I think he's just terrific. I love music, I love rap music of all kinds. Why, I could listen to rap music on my iPod earphones, ha ha ha."
Kanye West has not responded to requests for comment.