Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who has been encouraged by his allies to consider another run for the White House, will meet with several of his former political advisers Wednesday in Menlo Park, Calif., for a private dinner.
Kelli Harrison, a spokesperson for Romney, confirmed the details of Romney’s swing through Northern California.
Romney’s visit to the San Francisco area comes as former Florida governor Jeb Bush moves closer to formally launching a campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, while chatter about a possible third presidential run by Romney has quieted.
But some Romney associates, including prominent donors and consultants, have privately insisted that he remains interested in a possible return to the national stage, and that he is waiting to see how the GOP field unfolds before he makes a final decision on his future.
“Talking to lots of people close to him, I know the idea is still alive and certainly there are many of us who think he’d be an outstanding president,” said former Minnesota Republican congressman Vin Weber, a former Romney adviser, in an interview Wednesday. “But they will make a mistake if they think that his status allows him to wait for a long period of time. What Bush understands is that the advantage of having so-called front-runner status is that a lot of people will sign up early on.”
At the table Wednesday will be four Romney loyalists who held senior positions in Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign: Ben Ginsberg, Katie Biber Chen, Andrea Saul, and Lanhee Chen.
Ginsberg and Biber Chen were Romney’s campaign counselors during Romney’s last bid, Saul was his national press secretary, and Chen was his policy director.
Three of them: Biber Chen, Saul, and Chen, live nearby. Biber Chen works as senior counsel at Airbnb, Saul works for Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg’s non-profit group, Lean In, and Chen teaches at Stanford and serves as a fellow at the Hoover Institution.
Ginsberg, a longtime Washington-based Republican attorney who has advised several presidential nominees, and Chen are co-teaching the course that Romney is scheduled to address Wednesday afternoon.
The class, POLISCI 72, is titled “Policy, Politics, and the Presidency: Understanding the 2016 Campaign from Start to Finish,” according to a university syllabus. Its description begins: “In 2016, Americans will once again go to the polls to select a new president. But what will actually happen behind-the-scenes between now and then is largely a mystery to most.”
After the dinner, Romney will take a red-eye flight to Boston to attend Massachusetts Republican Charlie Baker’s gubernatorial inauguration Thursday. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who is mulling his own 2016 presidential campaign, will also be at Baker’s swearing-in.
As The Washington Post has reported, actions by Jeb Bush, whose leadership PAC and super PAC were unveiled Tuesday, have put pressure on other potential contenders to reconsider how and when they will jump into the race.
“It’s going to force an early decision on the part of others,” said Fred Malek, a leading party fundraiser. “People are going to have to commit earlier than they had expected, because the recruitment not only of donors but of organizational and political talent is going to be going at a pretty fast pace.”
Amid the speculation within Romney’s orbit about his thinking on 2016, Ron Kaufman, another former Romney adviser, said the former Massachusetts governor is not preparing for a third try, and simply enjoys staying in touch with his former aides.
“He’s been consistent from Day One to make sure Republicans win in 2016,” Kaufman said in an interview Wednesday. “He is going to whatever he can to help and hopes someone out there catches fire. He’ll be out there the whole time helping.”