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November 20th, 2019

Insight

Romney's silence for now makes sense

Jennifer Rubin

By Jennifer Rubin

Published Feb. 23, 2016

A rumor on Sunday that Mitt Romney might endorse Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., was quickly shot down.

"We would love to have his endorsement. We would love to have the help of everyone, because we have got to bring the Republican Party together," Rubio said on CNN's "State of the Union." He continued, "So, it's important to nominate someone that can bring everyone together, ultimately. We have to be on the same team. And it's one of the reasons why I believe I will be the nominee, because I give us the best chance to unify."

After some reflection, one can see it would make perfect sense for Romney to remain silent right now.

We assume that at some point Romney will back Rubio. Rubio was on the short list for Romney's VP in 2012. They and their families have spent time together. They share similar views on foreign policy (strongly internationalist) and are economic and social conservatives. When Romney announced he would not run for president in 2016 he said, "I believe that one of our next generation of Republican leaders, one who may not be as well-known as I am today, one who has not yet taken their message across the country, one who is just getting started, may well emerge as being better able to defeat the Democratic nominee." That fits Rubio and his "New American Century" message like a glove. (Also don't forget Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has repeatedly insulted Romney and other past GOP nominees who went on to lose.)

So if Romney is likely to prefer Rubio, why does it make sense to wait?

For starters, Donald Trump is very likely to win big in Nevada so there is little upside for Romney giving his nod now. A prized endorsement wants to add juice to drive momentum in a key race (as Gov. Nikki Haley did for Rubio in South Carolina). Rubio is already looking ahead to Super Tuesday states, where he will be on Nevada caucus day. In other words, it would make much more sense for Romney to endorse right before Super Tuesday, or even more likely, right before the March 8 Michigan primary, where Ohio Gov. John Kasich must do well or face elimination. Romney, a Michigan native, who won the primary there in 2012 could well move some votes for Rubio.

Second, Rubio certainly wants to have as much support as possible, but making him the "establishment" candidate instead of the "unifier" candidate at this stage makes little sense. He is pulling from various corners of the party and wants to continue to build on that. If anything, some names more associated with the grass roots would be helpful now as Rubio peels votes away from Cruz and/or Trump.

Lastly, with Jeb Bush's exit, many of the donors and supporters whom Bush and Romney share already are running to embrace Rubio. Romney has no need to "turn them over" to Rubio. Rubio will get them on his own. Rubio did pick up Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who previously backed Bush. Others in the Senate surely will follow insofar as the one thing on which all three front-runners can agree is that Cruz does not have his colleagues' support.

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