On Thursday, some 300 GOP donors, pundits, and politicians made the trek to Park City, Utah for Mitt Romney’s “Experts and Enthusiasts Summit” or “E2” for short. And while attendees say the summit is not intended to be entirely about Republican nominee Donald Trump, they don’t expect the conversation to stray too far from the controversial billionaire as the weekend unfolds.
Romney has been perhaps the most famous Republican to staunchly oppose the rise of Trump. A few months ago, he delivered a blistering speech at Hinckley University that attacked Trump as a charlatan and a con-artist who was in the midst of hijacking the conservative movement.
But not all of those attending the conference agree that Trump must be stopped at all costs. House Speaker Paul Ryan, Romney’s running mate in 2012, said in an op-ed last week that he would vote for Trump despite their differences on a wide range of issues. Later, clearly frustrated by what he deemed a “racist” attack from Trump against the judge in his civil lawsuit, he nonetheless reiterated his support for the nominee.
Those “racist” comments have led many Republicans to speak privately and publicly about the possibility of refusing to nominate Trump at the national convention in July. Strategists like Rick Wilson have said the RNC rules committee could still throw Trump overboard for a more palatable candidate.
Others, though, see that as an extremely unlikely possibility, knowing that it would land like a bomb amongst the millions of Republican voters who chose Trump as the nominee.
The other possibility – a third-party, conservative bid to challenge both Trump and Hillary Clinton in the general election – is favored by people like Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, Romney, Sen. Ben Sasse, and National Review columnist David French.
Rick Wilson said there would be renewed pressure on Romney to launch that bid.
“We’re at the point now where Mitt is the last dog in this fight who can run a credible, third-party effort,” he said. “There will be tremendous pressure on him.”
For his part, Romney has repeatedly said he will not run for president in 2016. Will his buddies get him to change his mind in Utah this weekend?
We shall see.