Although there was considerable warmth voiced about Mitt Romney at the Republican National Committee meeting in Chicago over the weekend, many of the 168 members of the RNC made it clear to Newsmax they were not going to embrace a movement launched to draft the 2012 presidential nominee for another run in '16.
With a CNN poll of voters nationwide last month showing Romney handily defeating President Barack Obama by a margin of 53 percent to 44 percent if their 2012 contest were held now, Utah's Republican State Chairman James Evans said his "Draft Mitt Romney — America Needs You" website has attracted 116,693 signers of an on-line petition urging Romney to run for president in '16.
"People are now realizing America got it wrong in 2012," said Evans, who started the "Draft Mitt" site three months ago, "and they think of what America and the world would look like today if Mitt Romney was president." He noted that there were also more than 70,000 "followers" on a Facebook page calling for another Romney candidacy.
Evans, the only black state GOP chairman in the continental United States, emphasized that his "draft" effort was "a regular grass-roots" movement and not tied to the "Romney insiders."
"And there is no 'donate' button on 'draftmitt.org,'" he added.
But other RNC members were a lot less inclined to urge Romney to make a third run at the presidency.
"I supported Mitt for the nomination in ’08 and worked hard for him in ’12," Colorado State Chairman Ryan Call told Newsmax. "We’d be fortunate to have him as president. But as for another run in ’16? No, no not necessarily. You don’t often get three bites out of the apple."
Call said that the Republican presidential race in 2016 is "wide open" and "I like the governors, such as Scott Walker [Wisconsin] and John Kasich [Ohio]. They are working through some complex problems."
"Mitt Romney’s a great man but it’s not his time," said Missouri State Chairman Ed Martin, agreeing with Call that current governors are the most attractive GOP prospects. He mentioned Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as "someone I’m interested in."
New Hampshire’s Republican National Committeeman Steve Duprey said he takes Romney "at face value. He has no interest in running again." He also pointed out that while there have been genuine "draft" movements, for Wendell Willkie in 1940 and Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, "the modern party rules are different. You can’t do a draft today."
Recalling how he was active in the New Hampshire primary campaigns of California Rep. Pete McCloskey when he challenged Richard Nixon in 1972 and John McCain in ’08, Duprey said he will be neutral in the ’16 nomination battle because of his party position.
Newsmax asked Massachusetts GOP National Committeeman Ron Kaufman, a close political confidante of Romney’s since he ran against the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., in 1994, what he thought of another presidential run by the former Bay State governor.
"No," Kaufman replied without hesitation, "Mitt says this for the record. He lived the presidential race, he gave it his best. And now he’s working hard for us to win a Republican Senate."
Kaufman, who also served as White House political director under George H.W. Bush, said he hopes Jeb Bush runs for president in 2016.
"His mother is going to be mad at me when she reads this," he deadpanned, "but I think America would be served well by another Bush presidency."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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