ANALYSIS: Mitt Romney Calls on GOP to Burn Itself Down – To Save It From Donald Trump

Romney, who received Trump’s endorsement in 2012, is a flawed messenger.

— -- The election that has seen everything just added a new thing: The last Republican nominee warning the GOP to deny the nomination from the overwhelming front-runner at any cost -- even if the cost is the party itself.

His prescription, though, is even more stunning. He again said he wasn’t running for president. Rather than endorsing one of Trump’s rivals, he chose to essentially endorse all three -- a clear call for a contested convention.

But make no mistake about what that would mean: That would be the Republican Party burning itself down in order to save itself.

It would mean engineering a way to deny the nomination to the individual who would have gotten the most votes and the most delegates -- and whose candidacy has energized a GOP that needs new voters.

In the very state that elected Romney governor -- secular, liberal Massachusetts -- Trump on Tuesday won 49 percent of the vote, his new high-water mark.

It wasn’t lost on some observers that a contested convention could result in a Romney nomination. Romney didn’t go so far as to rule that out. (Aides concede that’s the only way he might become president.)

Romney is a flawed messenger. He sought and received Trump’s endorsement in 2012. The party is still smarting from his infamous “47 percent” comment, his call for “self-deportation” of undocumented immigrants, and -- as Trump himself reminded the world before the speech -- his previously liberal stances on some issues cost him key conservative support in both of his runs for the presidency.

What’s more, there’s little evidence that party leaders are in a position to dictate outcomes to voters this year. Romney is calling for a very specific kind of strategic state-by-state voting that rarely, if ever moves millions of people in particular directions.

It’s also possible, maybe even probable, that Romney weighing in strengthens Trump. His campaign is built on the notion that the establishment is trying to keep him from becoming the nominee, and Trump never, ever goes quietly.

But a Republican Party that has seen its voters stray wildly from its historic principles has only this small window to repair that rift. Under the scenario Romney outlined so robustly, the party can only be saved by destroying itself.