After a three-week flirtation with another run for president, Mitt Romney said definitively on Friday that he will not seek the White House in 2016.
The Republican Party’s 2012 nominee plans to tell supporters about his plans to pass on another national campaign during a conference call. He first let his staff know in a separate call that he was out of the race.
“After putting considerable thought into making another run for president, I’ve decided it is best to give other leaders in the party the opportunity to become our next nominee,” Romney said in a statement, which he planned to read to supporters on the call.
This was foreseeable, as yesterday Romney’s point man in Iowa defected to Jeb Bush. That was a pretty good tell about Romney’s plans.
Romney had some positive polling to point to, but of course this far out the polls are meaningless; they’re reflective of name identification more than anything else, and the general public is no more interested in the 2016 election right now than it is in another Ebola outbreak. What was less positive for Romney was the reaction of the commentariat to his potential presidential run; the idea was panned mercilessly by conservative pundits from Ross Douthat to the American Conservative’s Daniel Larison. As Romney recognized no one seemed to buy any of the arguments for a third bite at the presidential apple, he had but one thing to do.
What this means is Jeb Bush gets to consolidate the GOP Establishment vote, so long as Chris Christie doesn’t get any traction. But there are more recognizable conservatives in the race who can make inroads into that market – Scott Walker is one, Marco Rubio is another. We’ve said for some time – we said it at the American Spectator months ago – that the 2016 cycle within the GOP will be marked by conservative candidates competing to make themselves palatable to the party’s establishment rather than establishment moderates competing to be palatable to the party’s voter base.
That didn’t bode well for Romney, and it won’t bode well for Bush. The GOP is going to have a fresh candidate in 2016.