WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney may no longer be a favorite to helm the State Department under President-elect Donald Trump, but the 2012 Republican presidential nominee is likely to keep playing a key role as a bridge between the incoming administration, the GOP establishment and the diehard #NeverTrump crowd whose banner he once carried.
Romney’s close ties with Republicans nationwide — including those who remain skeptical of Trump’s presidency — and his close relationship with his 2012 running mate, House Speaker Paul Ryan, position Romney to remain a key elder statesman and adviser as the party seeks to repair rifts and unify after the election — despite possibly being shoved away from a Cabinet post.
“Whether or not he becomes a member of the Trump administration, he has worked to mend fences and re-establish ties with the president-elect,” said GOP strategist Ryan Williams, a chief campaign aide for Romney in 2012. “He’ll be someone that President Trump can call if he needs advice or counsel.”
Romney’s candidacy for State has been blasted by several Trump allies, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who accused Romney of “sucking up” after he had publicly rebuked Trump during the campaign.
“People are going to say whatever they are going say,” said Fergus Cullen, a former New Hampshire GOP chairman who opposed Trump’s candidacy. “Gov. Romney is a patriot who cares what happens to the country. And Donald Trump is going to be our president. Romney is someone who values public service because he feels a duty to serve his country in whatever capacity he can.”
Two sources close to the transition team told the Herald that Romney is no longer a front-runner for the post of secretary of state, the latest twist in an ongoing transition team saga which has played out publicly in recent weeks. Romney, who blasted Trump as a “phony” and “fraud” during a March press conference, reversed course after the election, meeting with Trump to discuss the secretary of state post and later saying he believes Trump could be “the very man who can lead us to that better future.”
Last week, Romney was reportedly on a four-person shortlist for the post, along with Tennessee U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus, and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. But after divisions within Trump’s transition team over Romney spilled out into the public, the transition team moved away from Romney as well as Giuliani, whose foreign ties worried some team members, according to sources close to the transition team.
Trump and his advisers have since expanded the list of potential nominees to include former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, Exxon Mobil CEO Rex W. Tillerson, retired Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis and former GOP presidential rival Carly Fiorina along with Corker and Petraeus, according to a source close to the transition.
Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s senior adviser, later confirmed yesterday that the transition team is widening the net and said a decision would come within two weeks.
“There is not a finite list of finalists only because he will interview with additional candidates early this week,” Conway told reporters yesterday in the lobby of Trump tower.
She said the number people under consideration is “more than four, but — who knows how many finalists there will be?”
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