Verrrrry interesting to have Romney suddenly back in the game and on the attack at a precarious moment for the Republican establishment. I’ll give you two possible explanations. This one, from Jeff Blehar, is almost certainly correct:
Romney is being clever: he's freezing the endorsement field, making any other Senators/congressmen wary about jumping on board Trumptrain.
— Jeff B/DDHQ (@EsotericCD) February 24, 2016
Duncan Hunter and Chris Collins aren’t prominent members of Congress but any public movement among the GOP leadership towards Trump right now is dangerous for Rubio because it signals to voters that the race is ending and Trump, the loose cannon, is acceptable to the political class. Romney’s trying to put the brakes on with other would-be endorsers here by suggesting that Trump has liabilities that they don’t know about yet.
Here’s the other theory: The solution to the mystery of why Romney hasn’t endorsed Rubio yet even though everyone knows he’s going to is that Romney’s planning to go on offense against Trump. And if he’s planning that, his position will be stronger if he’s still technically undecided than if he’s already formally committed to Team Rubio, in which case his claim would be dismissed as a proxy attack by a rival candidate. Romney would actually make a great hatchet man for Rubio potentially — he’s much better at attacking, per his 2012 primary success, than either Rubio or Cruz have proved to be in their races against Trump and he may relish the opportunity to show the rest of the donor class that he’s not gutless like they are. Romney also retains some respect among the wider party as the reining nominee, a guy whom many Republicans invested in once before, even if Trump’s populist voters despise him. This coming from him might perk people’s ears up in a way that it wouldn’t coming from anyone else.
Or maybe I’m wrong about Romney acting as an enforcer for Rubio. Maybe this is actually Mitt signaling that he’s ready to get in as an independent candidate. That would certainly explain his reluctance to endorse. Is it too much to hope for?
The odds that Romney’s going to land any damaging blows against Trump when the rest of the known world has failed seem slim. Remember, Trump is a guy known to mock his own supporters for their fanatic loyalty by musing aloud that he could literally murder someone and they’d still chirp “TrumpTrumpTrumpTrumpTrump!” The one exception to that rule, though, might be evidence that Trump really has grossly overstated his wealth. His critics have claimed that for years; Trump once sued a reporter who alleged that he was far less rich than he says he is. (He lost the suit.) So much of Trump’s brand depends on him being the consummate winner, with inexhaustible wealth and success, that if it could be proved he was grossly exaggerating his net worth, he’d be diminished. I think it really would have to be a gross exaggeration, though — “He’s not worth $10 billion, he’s worth five!” wouldn’t cut it. And how would you go about proving it? Trump’s not going to release his taxes. Other candidates will because the rules are different for them, but Trump’s own fans would probably prefer that he not expose himself to political damage even if they had reason to believe it would prove he’s been lying to them all along. Still, intriguing to see Romney take it to Trump here. Exit question: Is this part of an asymmetrical warfare strategy with Rubio? If Trump’s consumed with bickering with Romney, Rubio could start attacking him and expect fewer counterattacks. Hmmmm.
Update: Why not?
Cruz and Rubio should hold a joint presser tomorrow releasing their tax returns and call on Trump to do the same before March 1st.
— Matt Mackowiak (@MattMackowiak) February 24, 2016
Update: And here’s the counterpunch.
Mitt Romney,who totally blew an election that should have been won and whose tax returns made him look like a fool, is now playing tough guy
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 24, 2016
Update: A Trump fan e-mails to note that Trump defended Romney when Reid accused him of tax shenanigans in 2012. Duly noted. But note this too: Trump told Hugh Hewitt last February that he had no objection to releasing his tax returns.