Almost to a person, state Republican chairmen and members of the Republican National Committee voiced relief at Mitt Romney’s announcement Friday that he would not seek their nomination for president in 2016.
In interviews with Newsmax following the "no-go" statement by the 2012 nominee, these Republican powers agreed with Romney, 67, that it was time to give "other leaders in the party an opportunity" to lead.
Moreover, many of the more conservative figures on the GOP's 167-member ruling body made little secret of their pleasure that someone they considered an "establishment" politician was out of the 2016 picture, and their hope for a similar decision by the other candidate they consider "establishment."
Ed Martin, state Republican chairman of Missouri, put it bluntly: "Mitt made a good decision — he was right that we need fresh leadership. I hope Jeb Bush sees it the same way as Mitt."
"Mitt Romney’s withdrawal is bigger news in that he specifically sidetracked Jeb Bush in two ways," Shawn Steel, California’s Republican National Committeeman, told Newsmax. "First, he slowed the 'inevitability of Bush' movement by merely mentioning he was interested. That caused many of the usual donors to strongly reconsider the entire presidential puzzle.
"Secondly, Romney pointed to the obvious conflict of a generational split between Bush and everyone else."
Steel added that the Republican field is now "wide open — the most wide open it has been since 1964 [when the teenage Steele first got involved in politics through Youth for Goldwater and altered the lettering on the "Coldwater Canyon" directional sign in Los Angeles to Goldwater Canyon.]"
Mississippi's Republican National Committeeman Henry Barbour shared a slightly different analysis with Newsmax soon after Romney’s announcement.
"I respect his decision and that decision opens up the race a bit. I think it frees up support from people who may have liked Gov. Romney a lot. This will benefit [former Florida Gov.] Jeb Bush; [former Texas Gov.] Rick Perry; [Govs.] Scott Walker [Wisconsin], Chris Christie [New Jersey], Mike Pence [Indiana], John Kasich [Ohio], and [Florida Sen.] Marco Rubio.
"[Sens.] Rand Paul and Ted Cruz will not be helped or hurt by the decision because they had their own support that is very loyal to them."
Barbour, nephew of former Mississippi governor and Republican National Chairman Haley Barbour, added that "I understand why Gov. Romney listened to those urging him to make the race over the past few weeks. It must have been terribly frustrating for him to watch President Obama and his policies and to think how different things would have been had he been president.
"It’s critical we control the presidency along with the House and Senate and I agree with Gov. Romney that it’s important we nominate someone from this impressive field who can win. Someone else will fill that void."
Barbour’s opinion was strongly seconded by Colorado State GOP Chairman Ryan Call, an early volunteer on Romney’s first bid for the nomination in ’08 and his 2012 campaign.
"Mitt Romney once again demonstrated his character and commitment to the conservative cause," Call told us, "By stepping aside and allowing others to take up the Republican banner, he has helped improve our party's chances at regaining the White House and correcting the failures and damage done under the Obama administration."
As Mitt Romney takes a final bow on the presidential stage, one finds that even those on the RNC who were adamantly hoping he didn’t run have nothing but good words about him.
South Carolina GOP Chairman Matt Moore summed up this feeling succinctly:
"Gov. Romney's heart is in the right place, so it's undoubtedly the best decision for him and his family. I'm confident the governor will do a great job serving our party and country as a senior statesman."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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