Split On Mitt: Capitol Hill Republicans Can't Decide On a Romney Rerun

Some Republicans clamor for Romney run while others want new options

January 13, 2015, 5:02 PM
PHOTO: Mitt Romney is pictured waving to supporters at an election night rally in Boston on Nov. 7, 2012.
Mitt Romney is pictured waving to supporters at an election night rally in Boston on Nov. 7, 2012.
Stephan Savoia/AP Photo

— -- There’s a lot of division on Capitol Hill, and Mitt Romney’s latest presidential tease is no exception.

Some lawmakers are clamoring for a third Romney run while others are taking more of a wait-and-see approach. And there’s an additional twist with a few sitting senators considering 2016 bids of their own.

Here’s a look at the emerging factions:


Sure, Romney lost twice, but that little fact hasn’t stopped some from eagerly calling for another Romney presidential bid.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, told the Washington Post, he spoke with Romney over the past few days and said he would support the former Massachusetts governor if he officially declares his candidacy.

“The country has buyer’s remorse and Mitt Romney has been proven right, particularly on foreign policy,” Chaffetz said.

Chaffetz is so eager for a third Romney bid he’s already willing to take shots at one of Romney’s biggest would-be rivals – former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

“Regardless of what Mitt Romney does, I don’t know how excited anybody could be with Jeb Bush’s candidacy,” Chaffetz told the Washington Post. “I want to win the White House and I don’t like the idea of another Bush-Clinton race. Been there, done that.”

Another lawmaker who wouldn’t mind seeing Romney in the race – Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. In an interview just hours before the Romney's interest hit the news, Hatch pined for another run from the two-time Republican presidential candidate.

“I'd like to see him run again, I'd like to see him very badly run again,” Hatch told ABC News’ Jeff Zeleny. “You won't find a better human being or more intelligent human being or more religious human being or more family-oriented human being or brighter person for the presidency than Mitt Romney. You just won't.”

“I think if he did decide to run, this third time, he'd win,” he added.


But some Romney supporters from years past aren’t so ready to jump on the Romney bandwagon just yet. Many key supporters welcomed another Romney campaign but said they’ll wait to see how the presidential field shakes out and whether Romney will actually run before backing a candidate.

“Well, I’ll let him make that decision but there’ll be a lot of candidates who will be making announcements in the coming months,” House Speaker John Boehner said at a Capitol Hill news conference Tuesday. “And it’s a very open process. May the best person win.”

“I certainly have a lot of respect. I think he hasn't decided yet, so I look forward to talking to each of the candidates,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-New Hampshire, said. “Most importantly, I want them to talk to my constituents and have to answer the tough questions that they will ask them.”

“We've got a lot of good candidates in the mix. He'd be another one. I think he'd be a great candidate and he's got a lot of support around the country,” Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said. “I think it'll be a spirited primary and I think we'll end up with a good candidate.”

Over the past week, Romney has called many of his former supporters on Capitol Hill, including Portman, who said he thinks voters would consider another Romney candidacy despite his previous failed bids.

“I think Ronald Reagan got a third look and won the presidency,” Portman noted. “People are going to want to know what his message is and that's what's really important.”

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, who ran for president twice and successfully obtained the Republican Party’s nomination in 2008, praised Romney as a potential candidate, but also plugged a fellow lawmaker he’s prodding to run in 2016 – Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

“I think that Mitt Romney is a person who's dedicated to serving the country. I think he is a fine and decent American. I think he has a reservoir of support, and I certainly respect any decision that he might make,” McCain said.

“My illegitimate son Lindsey Graham is exploring that option,” McCain added. “I am strongly encouraging Senator Lindsey Graham particularly with the world the way it is today.”


Then there are those lawmakers who are eying 2016 runs of their own. When asked about a Romney campaign while on his book tour this week, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, politely called Romney a “formidable” candidate but noted there are plenty of options in the GOP field.

“If he ran, he’d also be a very formidable candidate. He’s run twice before. Obviously he has another national network of donors that he can tap into, has experience running in these races,” Rubio said in an interview with Yahoo! News' Katie Couric. "The good news about the Republican Party is that we have so many people who could be very credible candidates and formidable candidates. The democrats apparently only have one.”

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, on the other hand, was a little more blunt in his response, saying a Romney candidacy is “mushy” and a recipe for a loss.

“There are a lot of folks in Washington who argue that the way Republicans should win is that we should nominate a candidate from the mushy middle,” Cruz said in a FOX News interview. “But we keep trying the theory and it keeps not working. Every single time we do that – whether it’s Gerald Ford, whether it’s Bob Dole, whether it’s John McCain or whether it’s Mitt Romney, the result over and over again is we lose.”

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, said he thinks it’s time to head in a new direction.

"Look, I like Governor Romney, I like him personally, I think he is a good person, I think he was a great businessman," Paul said in an interview with FOX News radio. "But you know that's yesterday's news."

ABC News' John Parkinson contributed to this report.