SALT LAKE CITY – Mitt Romney said he’s still being encouraged to run for president in 2016, even by a fellow Republican candidate already in the race.
But he isn’t interested.
“Every day I get a call or letters,” Romney told the Washington Post. “I go to church, I get harangued at church. ‘Oh, you’ve got to run!’ Look, I had one person who was running for president, and I won’t give you the name.”
That person, Romney told the newspaper, “called me and said, ‘I hope you don’t close the door. We may need you.’ That’s a person running for president! A candidate. A Republican. I’m not giving it a second thought.”
Longtime Romney supporter Kirk Jowers said that could change if “three or four of the key candidates come to him and say, ‘Look, we can’t beat (Donald) Trump or (Texas Sen. Ted) Cruz so we need you.’ ”
Jowers declined to say who has already approached Romney but identified the most prominent mainstream Republican candidates as Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
“It’s beyond unlikely,” he acknowledged. “But the one scenario that would be impossible for anybody to pass up would be those candidates coming forward and saying, ‘We need you, for the party and the country.’ ”
Jowers said “the fact that one candidate already has made that overture shows people are starting to look at a doomsday scenario,” where Trump or Cruz as the nominee costs the GOP the White House as well as control of the Senate.
The former head of the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics said while that doesn’t mean anyone else in the race will follow suit, “it does show that sense of urgency other candidates are feeling. … There’s a kind of hopelessness.”
BYU political science professor Chris Karpowitz said Romney’s comments about being asked not to close the door to a run by an unnamed candidate suggest he does want to be considered.
“He keeps saying he doesn’t want to run, but he also continues to stay in the news just enough to be relevant to the current nomination race,” Karpowitz said. “Comments like this certainly keep his name in the mix.”
The co-director of BYU’s Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy also said it is “highly unusual” for a current candidate to contact a past nominee about being ready for a run.
That’s probably “indicative of the challenges that establishment Republicans have had in a coalescing around a single candidate,” Karpowitz said, while seeing a Trump or Cruz nomination “as a recipe for disaster” in the general election.
But Karpowitz and University of New Hampshire political science professor Dante Scala both questioned whether Romney could bring together the party after losing the nomination in 2008 and the White House in 2012.
“I just don’t think Romney is that unifying figure,” Scala said, predicting New Hampshire’s first in the nation primary election, set for Feb. 9, will help the party settle on an establishment candidate.
Romney also said in the Washington Post interview, for a larger story on the 2016 race, that his concern over Bush’s electability was a major reason he seriously considered a third run for the White House a year ago.
“A Bush vs. Clinton head-to-head would be too easy for the Democrats,” Romney said during an interview last week in Boston with a pair of Washington Post reporters.
“I like Jeb a lot, I think he’d be a great president, but felt he was unfairly but severely burdened by the W years – and when I say the W years, it’s not only what happened to the economy, but the tragedy in Iraq,” Romney said.
He told the newspaper he made that clear during a private meeting with Bush in Utah on Jan. 22, telling Bush that it would be difficult for him to run against the Democratic front-runner, Hillary Clinton.
Romney recalled telling Bush that “it’s very hard for you to post up against Hillary Clinton and to separate yourself from the difficulty of the W years and compare them with the Clinton years,” the newspaper reported.
Bush, according to Romney, said “he was going to make his campaign about the future, not the past.”
Romney said he “didn’t say anything at that point. But as he left, I said to myself, ‘Gosh, in my opinion, it’s not going to be as easy to make that separation as I think he gives the impression it will be.’ One of the few things I predicted that turned out to be true.”
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