Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush have long been cordial toward each other, even if they aren’t exactly besties. Both are former governors, aligned with the business-friendly establishment side of the Republican Party.Now, with Romney’s announcement this week that he is exploring a third run for the White House, the two men are on a potential collision course. It’s a fight neither may be eager to have, but which some donors are framing as a referendum on the past versus the future, even if both men have been well-known political figures for years.Romney has told many people privately that he believes Bush, the brother of the last Republican president, will have trouble winning the presidency. Bush, who announced last month that he was considering presidential run, has made it clear publicly that he believes Romney ran a poor campaign when he was the GOP’s nominee in 2012.As they each look toward 2016, and if both do end up running, they will find themselves competing for pledges from the same donors, not to mention the same pool of aides and operatives, and the same types of voters in the Republican primary.Although the emerging GOP 2016 field appears to be large and unwieldy, the establishment lane would shift dramatically if both Bush and Romney are standing in it. Many Republicans predict potential candidates such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Ohio Gov. John Kasich would find themselves struggling.In what struck many Republicans as a clear reaction to Bush, Romney laid down his own marker Friday during a meeting in New York with about 30 of his past supporters. As his longtime finance director Spencer Zwick stood by, the former Massachusetts governor surprised many of those gathered — some of whom have already said they are backing Bush — by saying he was considering a run.Romney’s remarks Friday put in neon lights what he’d more quietly told New York financiers in December: He would not defer to Bush and did not view the former Florida governor as the de facto leader of the establishment wing of the GOP.Romney has long dreamed of the White House, and he’s been tormented by his loss to Obama in 2012. He said his decision wouldn’t be based on what anyone else did, and he insisted he has a broad vision for the country, according to attendees. Yet, his move struck a number of his own past supporters as a last gasp as the 2016 train appeared to be moving on without him.One Republican donor said Romney’s actions could even benefit Bush by making the former Florida governor, who has been around electoral politics for three decades, look “large, fresh, new.”“He’s trying too hard,” said one Republican strategist who has worked with Romney. “He needed to let Jeb sink or swim, then there would have been an opening, or not.”Romney allies say he’ll likely take the next two months or so to decide what to do, much faster than the mid-2015 time-frame many Republicans familiar with his thinking had anticipated.
One Republican was brutal in assessing things: “This is Mitt’s version of scrambling … I think Mitt’s just keeping his options open and the next 90 days will tell just how many of those options actually exist.”But Romney’s maneuver also made it clear that Jeb Bush is not Hillary Clinton, the Democrat who has essentially cleared her side of the field so far of any major challengers without even declaring she’s running. And Romney’s admirers don’t believe it’s strictly vanity that’s driving him.Including Romney, more than 15 Republicans are either openly considering a White House run or are being floated as potential contenders, including several — such as Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania — who would battle for the social conservative vote.
It should make for great spectator sport and God knows what batshitery will slip out!