For most of 2014, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney told the press again and again that he would not be running for president a third time. But as supporters rallied around him and he grew skeptical about the proposed field of candidates, there was a shift in tone. The AP reported that he met with several top donors, and it began to look as though he would make another run at the White House. While conservatives lamented the proposition of choosing between Jeb Bush and Romney Part III, it was clear that the big-money establishment liked the idea of backing Romney once again.
On Friday, however, Romney put the speculation to rest. In a conference call with supporters, he said that he had decided not to run. “After putting considerable thought into making another run for president, I’ve decided it is best to give other leaders in the party the opportunity to become our next nominee.”
In bowing out of the race, Romney used the platform to argue for a conservative to take the White House in 2016. Expressing regret that he could not be that president, he insisted that he did not “want to make it more difficult for someone else to emerge.”
Bush Takes the Lead
If the news comes as a welcome surprise to voters who dreaded the thought of Romney losing again, it could prove to be a point of concern for Republicans watching the poll numbers. Romney and Bush have consistently topped the polls on the GOP side of the equation. With Romney officially bowing out, that leaves the former Florida governor as the sole candidate presenting any serious challenge to Hillary Clinton. Of course, a lot can change between now and the official primary season.
While Romney declined to throw his support behind another specific candidate, he did make some comments that one could read as negative towards Bush. In musing over who might best win in the general election, Romney said that the candidate should come from “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.” Nationally, Bush is not as well known as Romney, but almost everyone else in the GOP field fits that description better than W.’s brother.
Nevertheless, unless Bush decides to follow Romney’s lead and vacate his expected candidacy, it will be hard to stop him. If Romney has been leading in the polls, only Bush has been able to give him a run for his money. With the business world inevitably behind him, it will be tough for more conservative candidates to mount a serious challenge. Voters who question Bush’s stance on illegal immigration, Common Core, and several other issues aren’t sure if he’s the right man for the job. And even those who think he would make a fine candidate are troubled by the thought of electing a third president from the same family.
Whatever happens, this will not be the last surprising event to shake up the election. For all we know, the real nominee may still be waiting in the wings.