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He may have taken himself out of the running, but Mitt Romney could still have a big say in which GOP contender will get the party’s nod for the 2016 presidential race.
Even as Romney was announcing his decision not to make another bid for the White House, a new Fox News poll showed the former Massachusetts governor was the front-runner in the hypothetical quest for the Republican presidential nomination.
In fact, Romney was far ahead of his rivals. Among self-identified Republicans, according to the poll, he enjoyed a rather commanding 10-point margin over his closest potential competitors, Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee.
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“Romney leads with 21 percent among self-identified Republicans. He’s followed by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee each at 11 percent, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 10 percent.”
Other possible GOP hopefuls scored in single digits in the Fox News survey: Ben Carson, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, and Rick Perry.
And just a week ago, The Washington Times noted another poll in which Romney came out as the clear favorite among likely 2016 Republican contenders.
Mr. Romney is at 24 percent in the Rasmussen poll that asked likely Republican voters to pick who they would vote for if the 2016 GOP presidential primary were being held in their state today from a group of eight possible contenders.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was next at 13 percent, with retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson at 12 percent and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker at 11 percent.
So it certainly stands to reason that, should he choose, Romney could wield a fair amount of political power and play a significant role in determining which of the remaining contenders might get the nomination — none of them has formally made an announcement regarding their intentions.
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In his statement today regarding his no-go decision about seeking the GOP nomination, Romney offered what might be seen as an indication of his preference for the party’s ticket-topping candidate going into 2016.
I believe that one of our next generation of Republican leaders, one who may not be as well known as I am today, one who has not yet taken their message across the country, one who is just getting started, may well emerge as being better able to defeat the Democrat nominee. In fact, I expect and hope that to be the case.
Hints and clues, it would appear, are plentiful in Romney’s choice of words and phrases, such as “next generation,” “may not be as well known,” “not yet taken their message across the country,” and “just getting started.”
Could Romney be hinting at support for Christie? According to The New York Times, the two men are scheduled to have dinner tonight, Friday evening. The Times writer believes this could herald good news for the New Jersey governor.
…Mr. Romney may be considering throwing his support, and that of his own political operation, to Mr. Christie. The two men are friendly, and Mr. Christie, along with Mr. Bush, was a main rival of Mr. Romney for the favor of the Republican establishment.
But Christie has been in the GOP presidential spotlight for quite a while, frequently by his own doing more than because of the interest of others. He’s certainly well known in Republican circles and could hardly be described as “just getting started.”
Jeb Bush, like Romney a former governor, is considered by most political observers to be an “establishment” Republican. And as a prominent member of the Bush political dynasty, does Jeb really fit the Romney job description of being in the “next generation” of GOP leaders who is “just getting started?”
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What about Rand Paul or Mike Huckabee, who both ran impressively in the Fox News poll referenced above? Again, each is relatively well known and have been informally campaigning for quite a while. Huckabee, of course, threw his hat in the presidential ring before, only to have it tossed back out by primary voters.
Ben Carson is well respected in conservative circles. He is certainly new on the political scene and “just getting started,” though many are concerned about Carson — who has never held political office or truly been tested on critical issues — being able to stand tough against the inevitable Democrat game of ultra-hardball likely to be played in 2016.
Does Florida Sen. Marco Rubio fit the Romney bill? He’s relatively young and fresh, has political experience, is energetic and well spoken, and has picked up some surprising support of late.
As Politico noted a few days ago, the Koch brothers’ influential and well-funded conservative network just wrapped a donor conference where an informal straw poll favored Rubio.
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida came out ahead of four other would-be GOP presidential candidates who had been invited….
The poll…does provide an early glimpse into the leanings of a pool of megadonors who are being hotly courted by the field of would-be candidates.
Then there’s Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, profiled just this morning in a lengthy piece for Bloomberg Politics.
A principled fighter and a proven winner in his bruising battles with street-fighting unions and other hardcore liberals in his home state, Walker is a respected survivor who has polished his political skills and his governing prowess considerably over his years in office.
The generally favorable Bloomberg piece takes note of those decided strangths as it gives Walker props for being a determined dark horse candidate who could surprise the field.
While Walker takes his lumps among Republican consultants and the national media for being, well, boring on stage, his Iowa speech showcased one of his overlooked yet sharpest rhetorical skills: spin.
Unlike Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee or most other potential GOP contenders who hail from deeply conservative states, Walker has honed his ability to sell conservatives on his credentials without alienating a critical mass of moderates needed to win a general election.
Following Mitt Romney’s carefully worded announcement about his decision to withdraw from contention, the Washington Wire blog on the Wall Street Journal website observed that Romney’s stepping off the stage “upends the GOP world.”
Much of that upending has to do with money, finances, and political donors.
“Today’s news certainly does reopen the fight for donors,” said Matt Moore, chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party.
“I know many donors had been frozen in recent weeks, taking a ‘wait and see’ approach. There’s a finite amount of money that can be raised–so every candidate benefits.”
The WSJ blog also quoted a New York-based Romney bundler from the governor’s 2012 presidential campaign, a fellow who is now supporting Scott Walker in a shift that could be interpreted as a signal of Romney’s own inclinations.
“He realized that the field is much, much stronger and the other members will have significant donor support,” Mr. [Jonathan] Burkan said about Mr. Romney. “There was absolutely no path to winning against such strong support.”
It will, indeed, be fascinating to watch for other telltale signs of if and/or how Mitt Romney will exercise his political muscle and financial influence in the weeks and months to come to help nominate and elect to the presidency that “next generation” conservative leader who is “just getting started.”
The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website.