At first, the idea of a Boris Johnson Restoration looked remote after his “hasta la vista” two months ago from 10 Downing Street. After the leadership collapse this week, rumors began circulating that Johnson wanted to change that Schwarzeneggerian valediction for a Terminator reminder — “I’ll be back,” the New York Times reported this morning, although skeptically:

For all of his charisma, it is also not clear that Mr. Johnson retains the same power to turn out voters that he did three years ago. The scandals that brought him down eroded his popularity with many Britons, and it was under his watch that the polls began to tilt heavily toward the opposition Labour Party.

Finally, there is the question of whether Mr. Johnson is actually ready to return. In his farewell speech to Parliament, he signed off with, “Hasta la vista, baby,” Arnold Schwarzenegger’s famous line from the movie “Terminator 2.” He later compared himself to Cincinnatus, a fifth-century Roman politician who saved the state from an invasion, retired to his farm, then subsequently returned to Rome as leader.

Still, as a highly visible former prime minister, Mr. Johnson is in line to take in millions of dollars on the after-dinner speaking circuit. He is expected to write another newspaper column, a gig that could bring him several hundred thousand pounds a year.

Thus far, Johnson doesn’t look like he’s ready to write memoirs. Reportedly, he’s calling up Tory MPs to line up support for a leadership fight. If it comes down to a lack of credible options, BoJonator 2.0 may come to pass. One of the more serious alternatives among the Tories, defence minister Ben Wallace took himself out of the running — and indicated he would likely back Johnson:

Mr Johnson – who has not ruled himself in or out of the race – already has the support of Defence Secretary Mr Wallace. Pointing to Mr Johnson’s record on defence spending and citing the mandate he achieved in 2019, the Cabinet minister said it was important to think about “who could win the next election” for the Conservatives.

Mr Wallace – who has ruled himself out of the Tory leadership race – argued that without national security there is “no economic security”, and said he believes it is “important” that whoever puts themselves forward for the top job indicates that. But he said he also has to “recognise the issue of the mandate”.

“This will be potentially our third Prime Minister since the General Election of 2019, that means we have to think about that legitimacy question that the public will be asking themselves, and also about who could win the next election – that’s obviously important for any political party at the time,” he told broadcasters. “So at the moment, I would lean towards Boris Johnson.

“I think he will still have some questions to answer around, obviously, that investigation (into allegations Mr Johnson misled Parliament), but I know when I was Secretary of State for Defence, he invested in defence, he supported me, he supported the actions this country has taken to keep us safe.”

Johnson also picked up an endorsement from three other Cabinet ministers:  Simon Clarke, the “Levelling Up” Secretary, Business Secretary (and Brexit ally) Jacob Rees-Mogg, and COP26 president Alok Sharma, raising his Cabinet number to four. However, the Telegraph’s head count shows Johnson falling behind Rishi Sunak, the former Chancellor whose resignation helped doom Johnson this summer, 67-52. Neither Sunak nor Johnson have officially launched bids for the Tory leader, but Penny Mordaunt made it official earlier today. According to a snap poll this morning, both Sunak and Mordaunt would be more popular with the general public:

This election is within the Parliamentary Tory caucus, however. Mordaunt only has 17 endorsements, which would leave Sunak and Johnson in a run-off for the final round, unless something changes significantly in the next few days.

Sunak may have the pole position at the moment, but Kara Kennedy sees the BoJonator Restoration as inevitable:

The Conservative Party calamities would be comical were they not happening against the backdrop of a multitude of crises: energy, cost of living, housing. This winter, a number of Brits are set to choose between heating and eating. These crises appear to have been exacerbated by the market reaction to Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget. In her forty-five-day tenure, she managed to spook the markets so much that the British pound fell to its lowest ever level against the US dollar, as global markets sold off British-backed assets.

Mere minutes after Truss’s Thursday resignation speech, where she told the country she lacked the mandate for her radical plans, whispers began of a Boris return. The prospect may sound ridiculous, but after 14 million voted for him in his 2019 landslide victory, he is the only Tory leadership candidate who can argue he has a mandate from the British people.

As it stands, Boris has the backing of fifty-two MPs, more than half of the 100 he needs by next Friday to get to the nomination. The high threshold for this leadership contest makes it probable that the first candidate to reach 100 MPs will end up as the next prime minister.

Could it be that this was the exact endgame that Boris Johnson planned for in the summer? He quickly rallied behind Truss — a weak candidate likely to implode — and sat on the sidelines, ready to be called back when the MPs who rebelled against him realized the error of their ways. It would not be the first time for Boris to play the bumbling, unkempt fool with silly hair while knowing exactly what he’s doing. Enter, Cincinnatus.

Whether he wins or not, Boris is back. And even if he doesn’t win, it seems pretty clear that the next PM will likely have to give him some sort of Cabinet position in the next Tory government, now that he’s active in party politics again. (The Telegraph notes that Tories are openly suggesting it as a settlement of the leadership fight.)  It’s a matter of survival, and of LBJ’s famous perspective of having your opponents inside the tent micturating outward rather than the other way around.

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