Report: Mitt Romney met with Bill Kristol about third-party run

The day will come when “Will Romney run again?” stories stop being written because literally no one, even me, takes them seriously anymore.

But today is not that day, my friends. Out: #NeverTrump. In: #AlwaysMitt!

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…

“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.

Yep. Per Erick Erickson, Romney’s already been looked at by three different groups eyeing independent candidates and been judged too stale by each of them to be the face of anti-Trump conservatives. His name recognition is universal, but running a patrician establishmentarian who’s seen as the embodiment of the “old GOP” seems not so swift in the Year of Trump. His support for an anti-Trump conservative independent, though, would be helpful in raising that candidate’s profile and potentially gaining him access to Romney’s vaunted fundraising network. If you believe Dan Senor, that was the real point of Kristol’s meeting with Romney. Not to get him into the race but to get him onboard with the idea of bringing someone else in. And not just any “someone”:

Sasse said a few days ago that a third-party candidacy requires a candidate who’s not preoccupied with raising small children, as he is, but having the last GOP nominee leaning on him to do it as a matter of duty to conservatism and an act of patriotism for his country might soften him up.

Even so, while the odds of Romney running are lo-o-ong, I wouldn’t put ’em at zero even now. Romney has a strong sense of duty, which is why he spoke up against Trump earlier in the campaign knowing he’d get nothing for his trouble but abuse from populists and “no one cares what he thinks” chatter from talking heads. One former Romney advisor told The Hill, “I don’t want to see him get in unless there was a chance he could win,” but … there’s no chance he could win. In order to get the election to the House of Representatives, Romney would somehow need to hold Trump and Hillary under 270 electoral votes, which is next to impossible since he’d be siphoning off votes exclusively from the right. Every blue state won by Obama in 2012 would suddenly be more, not less, likely to go for Hillary once Romney was in the race splitting Republican votes with Trump. Every red state won narrowly by Romney in 2012 would be at risk of turning blue. (See, e.g., Georgia.) The most “plausible” scenario for a Romney victory is by Josh Gelernter’s, in which Mitt wins Utah (which really is plausible given his and Trump’s polar popularity among Mormons) but Trump beats Hillary in a bunch of purple states such that they split the rest of electoral college between them almost evenly. Result: Hillary 266, Trump 266, Romney 6. The election goes to the House!

Two problems, though. How likely is it that Trump would perform juuuuuust well enough to peel off a bunch of states that went for Obama in 2012 but not quite well enough to get to 270 because those stubborn Utahns won’t vote for him? If Trump does well enough to take several Obama states, chances are he has huge national momentum and wins in a landslide. Romney’s Utah win becomes irrelevant. But even if Gelernter’s dream came true, try to imagine the Republican House, after a populist voter revolt in the primaries and a surprisingly strong showing for Trump in the general election, deciding to bypass the party’s nominee and instead make Mr Establishment the new president even though he lost badly in 2012 and failed to crack double digits in electoral votes as an independent in 2016. The country would melt down. Long story short: If Romney ran, he’d have to do it out of duty alone, believing that Donald Trump must be kept away from the presidency even if that means handing it to Hillary Clinton. Lo-o-ong odds against that, as I say. But not zero.

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Jazz Shaw 5:31 PM on December 01, 2022