Romney advisers have tried to interest him in another run for the White House
If he were to run, it would only be if he feared a Republican wouldn't win
Chris Christie and Jeb Bush are among the Republicans he most wants to see run
Two sources inside Mitt Romney’s inner circle tell CNN that while Romney isn’t planning a presidential bid, he’s listening to a lot of people who want him to get in the race – although he remains skeptical himself.
“A lot of people in Romneyland are rooting for him to get in,” says one source. “He’s not one of them.”
Another source close to Romney puts it this way: “I wouldn’t bet on it, but I wouldn’t bet either.”
The key, these sources say, is that Romney wants to see a Republican candidate who can win the White House. So there’s a willingness to wait to see who will run for the GOP nomination. While these sources say that, as of today, it’s not likely Romney would run, it can’t be ruled out entirely – and if the early seeding were to produce a weak field, Romney might be in a position to be a late entrant.
But as one ally points out, this is all “in the realm of the truly hypothetical,” and still remains “very unlikely.”
Even so, Romney allies are now indulging in the hypothetical.
“If Romney were to run,” one source says, “he would be the last guy in the race.” Several sources have said if Jeb Bush and Chris Christie are running, Romney would be less likely to enter the race.
One source adds that Romney is telling people that “he wants to see someone run who can beat Hillary Clinton. He believes the world has become a very dangerous place.”
There are differences among those close to Romney about who could best beat Clinton. Romney, according to one of the sources, thinks Bush would be a winnable candidate. Others in Romneyworld disagree, saying he is too tied to Wall Street and is too rusty.
Christie is another candidate who could have some appeal to Romney supporters, although to varying degrees.
One former adviser says the Romney boomlet is ” a byproduct of everybody else notdoing a great job” of starting their campaigns. He says if Jeb Bush were to decline a run, that would probably increase Romney’s chances of running “by about 20 percent,” but he still says it’s a longshot
On the road again?
One big question is Romney’s wife, Ann, who will be the key to any decision. She said “never again” after the last run. “I am over it,” she told CNN in June 2013. “It’s still hard to watch things and watch the news and feel like you wish you were there, but you move on.”
Ann Romney was a reluctant warrior on the second presidential bid in 2012. But lately, she’s been more publicly cagey about it, telling Neil Cavuto on Fox, “We will see, won’t we?”
Romney himself has also been less definitive about his future – clearly enjoying this spate of redemption, popularity and relevancy as a campaign surrogate.
Big GOP donors have not ruled out the Romney third-time-is-a-charm scenario, but they’re mostly not engaging right now. “They will start committing after the midterms, as that’s when the early train begins,” says one 2012 Romney financial supporter. He also added, however, that Christie now has the largest advantage “given his relationships with key donors in the Northeast.”
There is some benefit, this financial supporter says, to having a candidate who has been vetted multiple times. The downside, he adds, is putting the family through it again.
In the year after their presidential loss, Mitt and Ann Romney were not shy about saying their time has come and gone for a presidential bid, after losing twice. “It’s not my time,” Romney told me in June 2013. “I didn’t win. It’s time for someone else to get in there and give it their best shot.”
Although, in that same interview, Romney spoke of the experience of running as a “thrill.”
“And frankly I’d do it again, but – but it’s not my time,” he said then.
That was one year ago.
Out of the limelight
Since ending his 2012 campaign, Romney has mostly stayed out of the limelight. He has hosted an annual conference of policy and political leaders and donors in Park City, Utah, to discuss some of the nation’s problems and talk about solutions.
This year, he has appeared at a number of fund-raisers and public events for candidates, proving to be one of the Republican Party’s most popular surrogates – and fiercest critics of President Barack Obama’s foreign and defense policies. He wrote a Washington Post op-ed earlier this month arguing against defense budget cuts, saying policy makers “…will choose whether to succumb to the easy path of continued military hollowing or to honor their constitutional pledge to protect the United States.”
On Monday, he appeared at a rally for GOP candidates in Colorado, focusing his criticism on the President’s remarks on “60 Minutes” that the nation’s intelligence community had underestimated ISIS. “For the President to say, ‘Gee, we underestimated ISIS’ suggests he wasn’t looking at the kinds of ideas that were being brought to him,” he told the audience, explaining that ideas about how to deal with the terrorist group were brought to him as early as January.
“I guess he was busy doing other things – vacations, golf, fund-raising. He just hasn’t done the job he promised to do.”
Besides the Colorado event and a fund-raiser for Virginia House candidate Barbara Comstock Tuesday, Romney appeared this month at a birthday event for Christie, who some Romney supporters criticized for being too close to Obama during the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
Romney will be stepping up his surrogacy work as the campaign heads into the home stretch, with part of his itinerary taking him to some of the key battlegrounds for control of the Senate. On Wednesday, he goes to a fundraiser for Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal; on Thursday, he’ll stump with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and also attend a rally with Michigan GOP candidates. Friday, Romney travels to Louisiana for Senate nominee Rep. Bill Cassidy, and later goes to Utah for House candidate Mia Love.
The Romneys also spend a lot of time with their 22 grandchildren. They told the New York Times’ Mark Leibovich in an upcoming article they are scaling down. They’re selling their Massachusetts townhouse and are considering doing the same with their seaside home in La Jolla, California – which sparked some negative press when word leaked they wanted to add a car elevator there – and will make their home in Utah, where one of their sons lives.
CNN Senior Producer Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.