Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is not Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol’s mystery independent candidate for the presidency, Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign’s national spokesman confirmed to Breitbart News on Monday night.
Ryan Williams, Romney’s 2012 campaign national spokesman, told Breitbart News late Monday:
I haven’t heard anything about Gov. Romney changing his mind about a third party run and I don’t expect him to change his decision. Gov. Romney has been clear in the past that he will not be a candidate for president this year and I’ve seen nothing to indicate that he would change course. Gov. Romney has made his views about Donald Trump clear. He’s indicated that he doesn’t want to vote for him in the general election, and I think at this point his efforts are best directed at helping to elect Republican governors and maintain our majorities in the House and the Senate.
Williams technically does not speak for Romney anymore but remains in close contact with many in Romney’s orbit. Two of Romney’s official staffers, Leah Malone and Kelli Harrison, have not responded to inquiries seeking confirmation that Romney is not Kristol’s independent candidate. But for Williams to speak out so affirmatively is a sign that Romney is not even considering such an independent bid, as if he were he would be attempting to realign and reactivate much of his old political network.
Several other ex-Romney campaign staffers and Republicans party-wide have also confirmed that Romney has made no movements towards an independent bid, despite his dislike of both presumptive GOP presidential nominee billionaire Donald Trump and likely Democratic nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The fact that Romney is off the list—unless he or his team make some other kind of move to suggest otherwise—means that Kristol’s quixotic bid for an independent challenger to Trump is all but certain to fail. Without the gravitas of someone like Romney—or 2008 GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) or House Speaker Paul Ryan, the 2012 vice presidential nominee—any independent presidential bid by renegade ex-Republicans is doomed.
To even make an appearance on the presidential debate stage and gain access to ballots across the country, an independent candidate would have to have two things that nobody but Romney, Ryan, or McCain have: nearly universal name identification with voters, and the ability to either self-fund or have access to an array of wealthy political contributors necessary to finance such a bid. While McCain’s and Ryan’s offices have not officially confirmed they are not launching an independent bid, party officials remain confident that neither of them is Kristol’s mystery candidate.
The rumor mill late Monday was abuzz with the possibility that Kristol may have recruited a sitting GOP U.S. Senator. But with the exception of McCain—who at 79 is considered too old to do it, while also in the middle of a fierce reelection battle in Arizona—none of the current GOP U.S. Senators have a vast enough personal donor bank or the ability to self-fund.
Everyone else in the GOP conference in the Senate is essentially dependent on the national party committees for fundraising, and if they dared flirt with an independent presidential bid against the presumptive GOP nominee they would likely be immediately cut off from party money and donor access. Meanwhile, none of them other than McCain has a high enough national profile to survive without the party on their own in what will surely be the most brutal campaign of their lives.
Several others, including ex-Trump rivals Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, and more like Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) and former Missouri Sen. Jim Talent ruled out earlier on Monday any talk of an independent bid for president.
Of course, if Kristol delivers anyone less than Romney, Ryan, or McCain—again, the only three potential candidates with a chance of polling high enough to make the debate stage cutoff—party officials say his desperate anti-Trump efforts will go down in infamy. Some in the inner core of the Republican Party are already referring to Kristol as the new Dick Morris, a reference to the ex-Clinton aide who is widely considered discredited inside the beltway.
Kristol’s candidate, if there is one, would most likely need to reveal himself or herself by later this week. Independent candidates for federal office, especially the presidency, are at a significant disadvantage in terms of timing. If Kristol’s candidate does not come forward by Thursday sometime–it would be considered unserious to launch an independent presidential bid, where the help of the media is absolutely essential, on a Friday heading into a weekend news cycle–it’s unlikely that one will ever emerge.