In spite of his insistence that he will not run, Mitt Romney is being courted this week by a leading conservative commentator to reconsider and jump into the volatile 2016 presidential race as an independent candidate.
William Kristol, the longtime editor of the Weekly Standard magazine and a leading voice on the right, met privately with the 2012 nominee on Thursday afternoon to discuss the possibility of launching an independent bid, potentially with Romney as its standard-bearer.
“He came pretty close to being elected president, so I thought he may consider doing it, especially since he has been very forthright in explaining why Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton should not be president of the United States,” Kristol said in a phone interview Friday, during which he confirmed that he and Romney had a “little meeting in Washington.”
But knowing Romney’s reluctance, Kristol told Romney that if he remains unwilling to run, many top conservatives would appreciate having the former Massachusetts governor’s support for an independent candidate, should Kristol and other right-leaning figures enlist a willing contender.
“Obviously, if there were to be an independent candidacy, Romney’s support would be very important,” Kristol said. “I wanted to get his wisdom on whether it was more or less doable than I thought.”
“It was not like, ‘You should do it.’ I wouldn’t presume he’d do it. But I’m hoping that he begins to think about it a little more,” Kristol said. “His name is one of the names that is part of the discussion.”
The closed-door huddle was held at the J.W. Marriott hotel in Washington, which is just blocks from the White House. It was requested by Kristol, according to a person close to Romney who requested anonymity to discuss the session. Kristol said the conversation was held over glasses of water.
Kristol has been working informally for weeks to seek out a prominent political or military figure who could be drafted into the general-election contest, such as retired Marine Gen. James N. Mattis, who recently declined such overtures.
Later Thursday, both Kristol and Romney attended an awards gala for American Friends of The Hebrew University, an area group that supports the Jerusalem-based school.
At the dinner, when asked in front of the attendees about possibly running as an independent this year, Romney said he was not interested.
"No, I’m certainly going to be hoping that we find someone who I have my confidence in who becomes nominee. I don’t intend on supporting either of the major-party candidates at this point,” Romney said, according to the Washington Examiner.
But, Romney added, “I am dismayed at where we are now, I wish we had better choices, and I keep hoping that somehow things will get better, and I just don’t see an easy answer from where we are.”
A Romney spokesperson was not available for comment Friday evening.
from Bill Kristol's Weekly Standard
I have always voted for the Republican presidential candidate. From Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford to Ronald Reagan (twice) and George H. W. Bush (twice) and Bob Dole, from George W. Bush (twice) to John McCain and Mitt Romney—I've checked the box next to those eight names on all 11 occasions I've had the chance. About half the time, I've voted for someone else in the primary. But even in those cases I never hesitated before supporting the Republican nominee in the general election.
I regret none of those votes. I believe in retrospect, as I believed at the time, that in every case these men would have pursued policies better for the country than their opponents would have, and I believe now, as I did then, that in almost every case the Republican nominee was also superior to his opponent in terms of character and temperament and judgment.
My GOP presidential voting streak will end at 11. I cannot vote for Donald Trump. It's not clear that his mixed bag of motley policies would be superior to those of his Democratic opponent. He could well pick better Supreme Court justices, which is important; but he could well pursue a less sound foreign policy, which is also important. But policy is not the issue. Character is. It is clear that Donald Trump does not have the character to be president of the United States.
And it is clear Hillary Clinton ought not to be our next president either.
What to do?
Find a better choice. Recruit and support an independent candidate.
I'm not prone to encouraging or supporting independent candidacies. I've never done so. I think the two-party system has served America well. I think, all in all, the Republican party has served the country well. I could even make a case that, of all the political parties in the world, the Republican party is one of the most impressive: It's been right more often about more consequential things than almost any other.
But it was wrong to nominate Donald Trump.
The good news is that it is not too late to give Republican voters, a majority of whom have not supported Donald Trump in the primaries, an alternative. An independent Republican candidate can help prevent the conflation of the Republican party with Trump and of conservatism with Trumpism. Such a candidate could also appeal to many independents and some Democrats. He or she could win.
Really? Yes. Getting an independent candidate on the ballot in all 50 states is less difficult than conventional wisdom has it. The only states whose ballot access deadlines are before the end of June are Texas and North Carolina, and those deadlines are susceptible to legal challenges that are being drawn up as I write. Those challenges will probably succeed—but if they fail, one would have to resort to a write-in campaign in those two states. A U.S. Senate candidate won a write-in campaign in 2010.
Of course, putting together a serious independent campaign is a formidable task—but plenty of operatives and aides and donors and lawyers stand ready. They are at present only loosely organized, if at all. But it is appropriate in this era of distributed intelligence that this independent campaign start as a distributed campaign, especially since the need for a far broader distribution of power and responsibility to citizens and for bottom-up policies is likely to be a theme of such an effort.
And the fact is that an articulate and independent-minded conservative, perhaps a generation younger than the two elderly plutocrats between whom the parties are asking us to choose, could make a real race of it. He or she could build enough momentum over the summer to get into the debates, and then . . . couldn't the debates be a moment when large numbers of our countrymen might awaken with relief and greet with excitement the possibility of liberation from the nightmare of Clinton or Trump? How exciting would it be to inaugurate an attractive candidate who's neither Clinton nor Trump on January 20, 2017?