Conservatives and tea-party groups across America gearing up for the 2016 presidential election and a shakeup of the GOP learned Friday they would have one less hill to climb with Mitt Romney – the former Massachusetts governor whose Romneycare plan was a model for Obamacare – announcing he won’t run.
The New York Times reported Romney told some of his closest supporters in a conference call that he would not place himself in the running for the GOP nomination in 2016.
“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,” he said.
The Times reported he was confident he could win the nomination, “but he expressed concern about harming the party’s chances to retake the White House.”
“I did not want to make it more difficult for someone else to emerge who may have a better chance of becoming the president,” he said.
Romney, widely regarded as an establishment Republican, lost to Obama in 2012. Four years earlier, another establishment Republican, Sen. John McCain, also lost to Obama. Romney had fallen by the wayside during that year’s GOP primary.
He was hindered not only by the precursor to Obamacare but same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, disqualifying him in the minds of many tea-party and conservative groups.
The consecutive losses by establishment Republicans has raised the stature of “outsiders” such as Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.; Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas; surgeon Dr. Ben Carson; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; Sen.Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; and Gov. Mike Huckabee.
Hopefuls regarded as establishment Republicans include Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, Sen. Lindsay Graham and Gov. Jeb Bush.
The Times noted that the Romney announcement “frees up scores of donors and operatives who had been awaiting his decision, and creates space for other potential center-right candidates such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.”
Published reports noted Romney had been considering the run after pressure from supporters of his first two campaigns for president. But staffers at a recent meeting reportedly relayed their advice that another bid might not be the best idea.
The Times said Romney’s decision “will almost certainly bring an end to his decade-long quest to become president.”
“He lost in the Republican primary in 2008 before becoming his party’s standard-bearer four years later.
“Friday’s conference call seemed bittersweet for the Romney family. At one point, Mr. Romney’s wife, Ann, came on the line and thanked the former aides for their steadfast support.
“But luck was clearly not with Mr. Romney this time, even as he shared the news with his former staff members on his morning call. Mr. Romney’s voice fell off the line as the connection was suddenly dropped,” the report said.
The Associated Press described Romney’s investigation of a campaign as a “three-week flirtation.”
Rubio tweeted about the announcement, “He certainly earned the right to consider running, so I deeply respect his decision to give the next generation a chanced to lead.”
In a Facebook post, Bush said Romney is a patriot.
“I join many in hoping his days of serving our nation and our party are not over.”
Scot Lehigh editorialized at the Boston Globe that it was the right call.
“That’s a smart decision and, I have to admit, one I’m surprised he made. After all, we had already started hearing the usual Romney pre-campaign claptrap. To wit: He and Ann were convinced he’d make the best president of anyone in the GOP field. (It’s hard to say which of the two is more enamored of Mitt and his putative abilities.) And given that, they thought he had a duty to the country to run.”