Some supporters of 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney are seizing upon Donald Trump’s surge to argue yet again that Romney should enter the 2016 presidential race.
“Mitt wants to run. He never stopped wanting to run,” a former senior Romney adviser told New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman.
Sherman’s article, published Tuesday, was one of two new reports this week looking at the potential of a Romney 2016 bid. The other, by National Review’s Eliana Johnson and Elaina Plott, highlighted Romney donors still pining for him to run.
Romney seriously considered what would be his third White House campaign before issuing a statement that all but ruled it out in January.
“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,” Romney said at the time.
And according to former senior Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom, that statement still holds true.
“Mitt Romney has made his decision – he is not reconsidering it,” Fehrnstrom said in a Tuesday CNN interview, pouring cold water on the reports.
“He has no plans to revisit that decision,” he stressed.
The rise of Trump, however, has reportedly concerned both Romney’s supporters and even Romney himself.
The billionaire real-estate mogul’s brash campaign – filled with Twitter insults, fights with media personalities, charged immigration rhetoric, and other unorthodox activities – shocked the Republican establishment but did little to harm him in the polls. Though it is still early in the race, the vast majority of recent surveys have shown Trump leading the GOP pack.
“He’s someone to whom civility means a lot,” a close Romney adviser told Sherman. “The whole Trump thing really bothers him.”
Romney has issued at least a couple of public signs he is unhappy about Trump’s tone. Like many people in his party, he blasted Trump in July for briefly questioning the war record of Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), who was captured and tortured during the Vietnam War:
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) July 18, 2015
In August, Romney shared a Twitter post from his wife, Ann, defending Fox News host Megyn Kelly as Trump was launching a series of attacks against her.
Trump accused Kelly of asking unfair questions while moderating the first official prime-time Republican debate. In his pushback against her, Trump criticized her skills as a journalist, retweeted a supporter who called her a “bimbo,” and made what many saw as a lewd remark about menstruation. (Trump said his critics misinterpreted him and suggested that Kelly apologize instead.)
Romney has also occasionally entered the 2016 fray to make his opinion known. At the end of July, he criticized another presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), for suggesting President Barack Obama’s administration could soon be a leading state-sponsor of terrorism, amid the reaching of a nuclear deal between the US and other world powers and Iran.
He was also one of the earliest Republican leaders to call for South Carolina to remove the Confederate battle flag from state grounds after the church shooting that left nine African-Americans dead in Charleston.
Also seemingly fueling the latest Romney 2016 boomlet are the allegedly unimpressive candidacies of Trump’s rivals. The National Review reported that some of Romney’s top former donors have intentionally avoided backing other candidates for this very reason. And as some fans note: Spencer Zwick, Romney’s top fundraising aide in 2012, is officially neutral thanks to his new role at a super PAC focused on taking down Democrats.
“We got exposure to all the candidates in the last debate, and I personally don’t think any of them measure up to Mitt,” Dave Van Slooten, an ex-donor, said.
“They’re looking around and asking, ‘Is there anybody else to believe in?’ And the answer is no,” Greggory DeVore, another former donor, said.
Another former Romney adviser gave a particularly colorful quote dismissing the current crop of Republican candidates. The unnamed source compared Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and former Gov. Rick Perry of Texas to high schoolers who couldn’t hack it on the national stage.
“These guys like Walker and Perry, they were big deals in their states, but you get them onto the national stage and it’s a different story,” the ex-Romney aide said. “It’s like they were in middle school, and now they’re freshmen in high school and they’re getting their faces slammed in the toilets.”