After Mitt Romney lamented that President Barack Obama had won re-election due to giving “gifts” to African-Americans, Latinos, women, and other members of his coalition, many Republicans have taken the opportunity to distance themselves from the failed presidential candidate.
Notably, most of the Republicans who have spoken out against Romney’s misguided election postscript are considered to be rising stars of the party — and potential presidential nominees in 2016. Although it seems premature to discuss the next presidential race, as Benjy Sarlin points out in Talking Points Memo, the immediate aftermath of a presidential election goes a long way toward forming the field for the next one. After all, almost exactly four years ago today Mitt Romney penned a New York Times op-ed titled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” which would come to define his entire campaign.
With that in mind, the reaction to Romney’s “gifts” remarks may well be the first litmus test for the 2016 Republican primaries. Here are five potential candidates who responded by throwing Romney under the bus:
Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, who recently admonished his Republican colleagues to “stop being the stupid party,” ripped Romney’s comments at the Republican Governors Association opening press conference.
“No, I think that’s absolutely wrong,” Jindal said. “Two points on that: One, we have got to stop dividing the American voters. We need to go after 100 percent of the votes, not 53 percent. We need to go after every single vote. And, secondly, we need to continue to show how our policies help every voter out there achieve the American Dream… So, I absolutely reject that notion.”
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Also at the RGA, Susana Martinez blasted Romney for hindering the party’s efforts to expand its tent. After calling Romney’s remark “ridiculous,” the popular New Mexico governor added, “That unfortunately is what sets us back as a party, our comments that are not thought through carefully.”
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Christie — who drew the ire of many right-wingers when he effusively praised President Obama’s response to Hurricane Sandy (and declared that he didn’t “give a damn” if Romney traveled to New Jersey to survey the damage) — continued the process of distancing himself from Romney during a Friday morning appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
“You can’t expect to be a leader of all the people and be divisive. You have to talk about themes, policies that unite people, and play to their aspirations and their goals and their hopes for their family and their neighbors,” Christie said.
“Do I wish he hadn’t said those things? Of course,” Christie added. “But on the other hand, I”m not going to bury the guy for it.”
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New Hampshire senator Kelly Ayotte, who was on Romney’s shortlist for vice president and has become one of the public faces of the Republican Party’s Benghazi inquiries, shot down Romney’s remarks during an interview on MSNBC.
“I listened to the comments, I don’t know what the context fully was. I don’t agree with the comments,” Ayotte said. “I think the campaign is over and what the voters are looking for us to do is to accept their votes and then go forward. We’ve got some big challenges that need to be resolved.”
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Florida senator Marco Rubio, who was an outspoken Romney supporter during the presidential campaign, was more delicate than many other 2016 contenders in his criticism of Romney — but he did criticize him just the same.
“I don’t want to rebut him point by point,” Rubio told Politico. “I would just say to you, I don’t believe that we have millions and millions of people in this country that don’t want to work. I’m not saying that’s what he said. I think we have millions of people in this country that are out of work and are dependent on the government because they can’t find a job.”
Rubio also noted that “our mission should not be to deny government benifits to people who need them.”
Photo credit: AP/Haraz N. Ghanbari, File