Mitt Romney is not running for president. But since last week’s GOP midterm election romp, he has cemented his role as one of the Republican Party’s key behind-the-scenes players, nurturing relationships with members of Congress and keeping in close touch with longtime consultants.
According to several top Republicans, Romney made more than 80 phone calls to GOP candidates last Tuesday and Wednesday — including Senate candidates Joni Ernst of Iowa and Thom Tillis of North Carolina — to congratulate them on their victories. He spent election night in Boston watching returns at the home of former aide Ron Kaufman, stopping in later at the Seaport Hotel to congratulate Massachusetts governor-elect Charlie Baker (R) on his win.
Some confidants also continue to prepare the ground for another Romney presidential campaign, despite his continued disavowals of interest. In the days after the elections, a group of Romney supporters began circulating a memo that compared the success of his midterm endorsements with those made by Hillary Rodham Clinton, the front-runner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.
The documents, which were obtained by The Washington Post, concluded that two out of three Romney candidates won their elections, compared with one in three for Clinton.
According to three Republicans who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid, Romney’s associates are convinced that, if former Florida governor Jeb Bush does not run, Romney could consider another White House bid. He has told friends that he feels positive about the likely GOP field but also worries that many of the contenders may not have what it takes to beat Clinton.
In two spreadsheets circulated last week, Romney’s “winning percentage” in the midterms is contrasted with Clinton’s. After listing the candidates each of them endorsed, the analysis says that 66 percent of Romney’s picks emerged victorious in the GOP wave, compared with 33 percent for Clinton.
Clinton is marked as having backed 39 candidates, while Romney endorsed 76. There are descriptions of Clinton’s activities on behalf of each candidate, whether it was a rally, a fundraiser, a robocall or just an endorsement.
The Republicans familiar with Romney’s inner circle said the medium is part of the message. To nudge the data-driven Romney, they are deliberately charting returns and his recent political activity in Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, knowing that numbers are the best way to win his attention. In chats with him, they also are talking up his standing in the GOP, which they argue has been bolstered by his work for the party this year.
Romney, who was in Washington on Friday to speak at the Israeli American Council’s national conference, has experienced a resurgence of sorts in recent months, as dozens of campaigns asked for his assistance. He spent the final days before Tuesday’s elections in Alaska, where he stumped for Republican Senate candidate Dan Sullivan.
At Friday’s event, Romney sharply criticized President Obama’s foreign policy. “It’s tempting to think he’s just inept,” Romney said, “but the reality is, he does have a foreign policy” — one that is “weakening our military and distancing us from our allies.”
A poll by Democracy Corps, a Democratic group, showed that those who voted in Tuesday’s GOP-leaning elections favored Romney over Clinton, 46 percent to 45 percent. A Des Moines Register-Bloomberg News poll released last month showed Romney as the only potential 2016 candidate who would beat Clinton among likely Iowa voters, 44 percent to 43 percent.
In an interview with Fox News on election night, Romney dodged 2016 questions but noted that he campaigned in 27 states this year. “I am going to continue to fight and campaign for people who I believe in, that can get the country going in the right direction,” he said.