People close to the former governor say he believed he would beat Hillary Clinton in a general election matchup if the election were held today. But, like many election watchers, Romney anticipates a vicious Republican nomination fight that will damage and deplete the ultimate winner, while Clinton, virtually unchallenged for her party’s nomination, will be luxuriantly free to squirrel away hundreds of millions of election dollars and step into the general arena, rich and refreshed, against a shattered GOP nominee.In public, Romney says nice things about Bush...
But those familiar with Romney’s thinking as he's been contemplating a run and over the years say that he has held a jaundiced view of the former Florida governor dating all the way back to his handling of the Terri Schiavo case, and has come to see Bush as a non-entity in the 2016 nomination contest. Romney is said to see Bush as a small-time businessman whose financial transactions would nonetheless be fodder for the Democrats and as terminally weighed down with voters across the board based on his family name. Romney also doesn’t think much of Bush’s political skills (a view mocked by Bush’s camp, who say Romney is nowhere near Bush’s league as a campaigner). Romney also considers Bush the national Republican figure who was the least helpful to him during his last run for the White House, a position that has darkened Ann Romney’s view of Bush as well.Nate Cohn writes at The New York Times:
In renouncing a new run for president Friday, Mitt Romney becomes the first big casualty of the invisible primary — the behind-the-scenes competition for donors, endorsements and campaign operatives.Rebecca Ballhuas, Heather Haddon and Josh Dawsey report at The Wall Street Journal:
It is now clear that Mr. Bush, despite his weaknesses, has attracted much of the support that Mr. Romney wanted. The highest-profile example is David Kochel, a former Romney official who was selected Thursday as Mr. Bush’s national campaign manager. My guess is that many more will follow.
The candidate most obviously hurt by Mr. Romney’s withdrawal is Rand Paul, who was probably counting on a fairly divided field in New Hampshire to win an early primary. It will be much harder to win New Hampshire with less than about 30 percent of the vote — something Mr. Paul could feasibly pull off.
“It would be such a tough thing to do to tell either one of them ’no,’ ” said Barry Wynn, a top fundraiser for Mr. Romney in 2012 and for former President George W. Bush. “I don’t know what I would have done. This would have been a very difficult decision to make.”
Mr. Wynn said he now plans to throw his support behind Mr. Bush.
His decision echoes the choice many donors are making in the wake of Friday’s news. Dirk van Dongen, who raised nearly $1.5 million for Mr. Romney’s campaign in 2012, said the Republican fundraisers he had spoken with in recent weeks were conflicted over backing Mr. Romney or Mr. Bush. “Some of them said, ‘Hey, I’d be with Jeb Bush except for the fact that I need to know what Mitt Romney is going to do.’"
Following Friday’s announcement, Mr. van Dongen said, “presumably those people will now sign onto the Bush initiative.”
“It simplifies the calculation,” added Mr. van Dongen, who said he committed to back Mr. Bush even before Mr. Romney said he was considering a bid.