Mitt Romney plans to make a major address on the state of the Republican presidential race — fueling speculation among political insiders that he is ready to jump into the contest if the GOP is forced into a brokered convention.
CNN and Fox News reports that Romney will make his speech Thursday at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, but CNN's executive political editor Mark Preston said sources tell him it will not be an announcement that the former Massachusetts governor plans to run.
Preston said sources also tell him that Romney will not be endorsing a candidate for the GOP nomination — the slate of which consists of billionaire businessman Donald Trump, Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and, for the moment, at least, retired pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson.
Likewise, NBC News' Andrew Rafferty tweeted:
Romney has been engaged in a war of words with Trump, who is disliked and feared by much of the Republican old guard.
Trump has referred to Romney as a "dope" and "one of the dumbest candidates" in Republican politics after Romney suggested there was a "bombshell" in the billionaire developer's unreleased tax returns.
Romney said Trump was guilty of "coddling … repugnant bigotry" by not appearing not to disavow the Ku Klux Klan and its former Grand Wizard David Duke — something Romney called a "disqualifying and disgusting response."
He also said he believes Trump has the clearest path to the GOP nomination — and that's creating "a slimmer and slimmer opening" for his competitors.
Romney's planned address at the university's Hinckley Institute of Politics Forum comes two days after Trump won seven states in the Super Tuesday primaries, easily trouncing Cruz, who won three and Rubio, won one.
Last year, Romney, who lost to President Barack Obama in 2012, was said to be seriously considering another run — what would have been his third. But he later said he wouldn't.
Still, in recent weeks, as the GOP establishment increasingly worries about the possible damage Trump could do to the Republican Party, there have been whispers that Romney would flip-flop and jump in.
That speculation increased after Wednesday's announcement that Romney will address "the state of the 2016 presidential race."
earlier this week that Republicans are "talking behind closed doors about ways to deal with the rise of Donald Trump, even threatening to bring Mitt Romney into the race for the White House, if Marco Rubio does poorly during Tuesday's primaries."
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