After his anti-Trump speech yesterday, CNN reported that Romney’s game plan involved denying Trump enough delegates to prevent him from outright winning the nomination. That would then allow the party to choose another candidate at the convention. CNN’s story included this line which suggested Romney himself was willing to step in and and accept the job:
Implicit in Romney’s request to his team to explore the possibility of a convention fight is his willingness to step in and carry the party’s banner into the fall general election as the Republican nominee. Another name these sources mentioned was House Speaker Paul Ryan, Romney’s running mate in 2012.
It’s not clear where CNN got this idea. The early part of the story seems to come from a single sources close to Romney’s inner circle but this line mentions “sources.” Did someone on Romney’s team float this off the record or were the “sources” mentioned by CNN a third party speaking more generally about what could conceivably happen if Romney’s plan played out? Whatever the case, Romney put a stop to the speculation Friday morning in an interview with Matt Lauer on the Today show. Or did he?:
Lauer: Not endorsing someone now, Governor, have you left door open just wide enough for you to ride through it on a white horse? Do you want to be considered as an alternative to save this party if it gets down to a contested convention in July?
Romney: No. No. The people who can save this party are Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio or John Kasich. We’re going to get a sense within a few days of who that person might be but I’m going to be supporting that person and doing everything I can to make sure they become the nominee of the party.
Lauer: I’m going to be a little stubborn on this. Under any circumstances, Governor, if large numbers of people in the establishment wing of the Republican party come to you and say ‘Mitt, you’re the guy who can save the day.’ Under any circumstances would you be a part of this presidential race as a candidate?
Romney: There are no circumstances I can foresee where that would possibly happen. But let me say something…
Lauer: I can foresee…
Romney: No reasonable scenario I can imagine.
Lauer: Just slam the door on it. Close the door. You will not run for president.
Romney: I’m not…I’m not running for president and I won’t run for president.
It seems pretty clear from the whole interview that Romney plans to endorse one of the other candidates within the next few weeks and that he does not see this as a moment for him to try to upstage those candidates and become the nominee himself. But no doubt there will be some people who parse the exchange with Lauer and only hear Romney telling them there’s still a chance.