New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) likely just saw their 2016 chances improve with Mitt Romney’s departure from the race.
Romney, the party’s 2012 presidential nominee, suddenly announced Friday morning that he won’t launch another White House bid in 2016. His exit opens up more space for establishment-oriented contenders with similar constituencies to Romney’s — particularly Christie and Bush.
Indeed, Christie and Bush were already competing over the same Wall Street donors as they explore potential campaigns. And one top Romney booster, hedge-funder Anthony Scaramucci, proclaimed in December that Romney would not run if another “establishment front-runner” like Bush entered the race.
“If he does announce, my guess is that Gov. Romney will not run,” Scaramucci said of Bush. “I’m a Romney guy. I do not think Romney’s going to run.”
Some of the more firebrand presidential candidates previously appeared to salivate at the concept of facing Romney, Christie, and Jeb together. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) openly declared this week that the trio would “divide up the moderate vote” to the benefit of conservative contenders like himself.
“The more the merrier as far as I’m concerned. I think we have place in the party for moderates like Christie, and Bush, and Romney,” Paul said in a Fox News interview Tuesday. “Hopefully — at least from a conservative point of view — we hope the moderates will divide up the moderate vote and maybe allow a conservative to be the nominee.”
Bush seems particularly well positioned to benefit from Romney’s exit. The former Florida governor reportedly hired a top Romney operative to be his campaign manager on Thursday and has been actively poaching many of Romney’s biggest donors. And Bush and Romney reportedly met together in Utah the day before he announced his decision not to run. (According to The New York Times, Romney is also set to have a dinner with Christie on Friday.)
In a statement issued shortly after Romney’s Friday announcement, Bush showered Romney with praise.
“Mitt Romney has been a leader in our party for many years. There are few people who have worked harder to elect Republicans across the country than he has,” Bush wrote. “Though I’m sure today’s decision was not easy, I know that Mitt Romney will never stop advocating for renewing America’s promise through upward mobility, encouraging free enterprise and strengthening our national defence. Mitt is a patriot.”
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