In a long anticipated move, today the Republican National Committee released star player Mitt Romney from the team. Had Romney remained on the team until March 31st, he would have been due a participation bonus of 500 superdelegates to the 2012 National Convention. Cutting him now gives Romney a chance to catch on with another team before the real season begins in September, and it gives the RNC the flexibility to pursue rebuilding with younger, more exciting talent. Romney is an unrestricted political free agent, and can sign with any team.
At a somber news conference, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus thanked Romney for his years of service to the organization. “We have nothing for respect and admiration for everything Mitt did for this team, and we will remember him in particular for his glorious 2002 victory in Massachusetts. Let me be clear – this is not about Mitt Romney and his abilities - this is a business decision. As an organization, we felt that after weighing the short term benefits of keeping Mitt on the roster, it was in our best long term interest to look ahead to 2016. Frankly we view this decision as in his best interest as well. Mitt can start moving in another direction to help another team right away, and we owe him that opportunity.”
Romney’s career started slowly with the RNC, and early on he was labeled as a leader who could not win the big one. He came close in 1994, losing to the undefeated Ted Kennedy in the Senate finals, but he finally brought home the elusive championship in 2002 when he was elected governor of Massachusetts. His victory that season was even more impressive considering that he had to play in front of a hostile Northeastern liberal crowd. During that campaign season, he cemented his reputation as a superb game manager, mixing a solid ground game with the occasional advertising bomb. Positional adaptability was his signature skill. He could alter his approach from season to season, and sometimes from day to day, keeping opponents and fans off balance.
In recent months, however, it became clear that Romney was no longer the same player who had saved the Olympics and turned around struggling businesses. He began suffering from self-inflicted verbal injuries that affected his game, and during the current primary season, has taken some devastating hits. Newt Gingrich hit him so hard in South Carolina some wondered whether he would ever recover. Since that blindside hit, he has limped to victories against weak competition and the blogosphere has been filled with questions about the toll of the process on his abilities. Fans began to openly wonder how many more hits their hometown hero could take before his storied career would be over.
“It’s a sad day for Republicans, but we’ve got to move forward and look to the future,” said Priebus. “We can’t expect our young guns to wait on the sidelines holding the clipboard for Mitt any longer.”
The young guns behind Romney on the depth chart include Rick Santorum, who is valued for his ability to extend a play and audible from the podium. The rap on Santorum is that he never knows when to take the sack and demonstrate patience during game situations. His decision making will need to improve dramatically if he hopes to lead the RNC team to victory.
There have been rumors that the RNC was considering moving up to draft Jeb Bush, a leader with a strong pedigree. Both his father and brother played at the professional level, so many inside the organization hope some of their skills and ability to connect with fans transferred to young Jeb.
“Jeb has won at every level he’s competed at, but this is a different ballgame. Up here, the game is faster and more violent, and without a preseason, it isn’t a slam dunk that he’ll be game ready for the big game against DNC in November,” added one Romney teammate.
Speculation began immediately that the Democratic National Committee would be interested in signing Romney. Leaders of the DNC promised to do their due diligence and consider their options. “Look, we already have a quarterback, but it would be negligence on our part not to look into whether or not Romney can still play at this level. It appears that he would be comfortable within our system, so we’ll see.”
Other teams seem more wary of Romney. The Green Party, the Libertarian Party, and the Socialist Party all expressed restrained interest in the free agent star. One unnamed source summed up the sentiment among all the political parties. “You have to consider him since at one time or another in his career he built his offense around our philosophies. But you cannot look past all the recent fumbles and the missed opportunities. He can’t duck and dodge like he used to. Everyone knows his moves. He’s stiff like a statute under the bright lights anymore.”
Fan reaction to the release announcement was mixed. Former Romney supporter Bud Light put it this way: “It was time to move on. We stuck with the last guy too longer and it hurt us,” referring to the RNC’s decision to re-sign John McCain in 2008. “He was past his prime, but we thought we were getting the Ol’ 2000 Maverick. Instead, we got the old 1974 Buick.”
“We will never find our franchise politician of the future if we holding on to Romney any longer. We wish him luck, except when he goes up against us.”
RNC flag waver Carl Spackler will miss the comfort of his handsome team leader behind the center. “Everyone else is untested in the big moments. No one knows for sure how Rand Paul will handle a debate question on nuclear proliferation, or how Marco Rubio will suggest reforming the tax code. These are game situations. At least with Romney, you knew where he stood. He was unequivocal in his support of strong families, strong military and freedom. I like those things. They’re strong.”
Romney has made it clear that he has no interest in a backup role, or in a role as mentor to a younger talent. “I still got game left.”
The Republican National Committee, and the league, are not so sure.