NEW YORK – Is the ultimate aim of campaign strategist Karl Rove’s stop-Trump plot to make Mitt Romney the 2016 Republican nominee?
At a meeting of Republican governors and donors in Washington, D.C., last month, Rove – dubbed the “architect” of George W. Bush’s election success – launched a movement to prevent Donald Trump from gaining the 1,237 delegates he needs in the primaries to win the GOP nomination on the first ballot at the party’s convention in Cleveland in July.
Last weekend, Rove stepped up his efforts to block Trump, arguing his case at the American Enterprise Institute’s World Forum in Sea Island, Georgia, a closed-to-the-press meeting of billionaire GOP donors, tech company CEOs and Republican establishment leaders.
The highlight of the meeting was Rove’s presentation of focus group findings in which he argued that encouraging votes for Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Ohio Gov. John Kasich could derail Trump’s march to the nomination by denying him the plurality of votes he needs to win March 15 “winner take all” primaries in Ohio and Florida.
Rove’s ‘Draft Romney’ strategy
As WND reported Tuesday, if Trump wins both Ohio and Florida, stopping him from gaining 1,237 delegates in the remaining GOP primary contests will be difficult, if not impossible.
By pushing votes for Cruz, Rubio or Kasich, Rove appears to be angling for a “brokered” or “contested” nominating convention in which all delegates would be free to vote their preferences if the first ballot fails to produce a winner.
Mitt Romney’s availability as a possible consensus choice at a brokered convention gained credence with in an interview last Sunday with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.”
See the Fox News interview with Mitt Romney:
“Just slam the door on it. Close the door. Unambiguous – you will not run for president?” Wallace asked Romney after several failed attempts to get him to say whether or not he would accept a draft in a contested nominating convention.
“I’m not running for president, and I won’t run for president,” Romney said.
“OK. This is the kind of thing – the question I’m going to ask you now is why people hate reporters,” Wallace responded. “You say you won’t run for president, but you didn’t rule out a draft. So here is an opportunity.”
From there, the exchange got even more pointed.
ROMNEY: OK, Chris, this is so ridiculous. I’m not going there. You’ve got three people who I’d like to see as the nominee. I’m going to endorse one of them. I’m going to campaign with one of them.
I’m not running for president. I’m not planning on running for president. And that’s what it’s all about.
You got four people running for president on this stage. One of them will be our nominee.
WALLACE: And as General George Sherman said, if nominated, I will not run, if elected, I will not serve?
ROMNEY: That’s an absurd — in my opinion, that’s an absurd thing to say. No Republican should say that. That makes no sense for someone to say if they were drafted by their country, that they’d say no.
What I can tell you is I’m not running for president. ’m not going to run for president. I’m going to support one of these four people to be our nominee. I’m supporting three of them right now. And that means that we’re going to get one of those people as our nominee.
WALLACE: You realize that by saying what you just said that people are going to say he opened the door to a draft?
Romney concluded the discussion by making it clear he would not vote for Trump under any circumstances, preferring to write in a candidate if the real estate billionaire were to become the GOP presidential nominee.
Robo for Rubio, Kasich
On Tuesday, Fox News played a robocall Romney recorded supporting Rubio and Kasich while attacking Trump. It targeted the four states holding GOP primaries March 8 – Michigan, Mississippi, Idaho and Hawaii.
Romney spokesmen insisted the calls were not intended to endorse Rubio or Kasich, adding more evidence Romney had decided to go along with Rove’s strategy of promoting votes for Trump competitors.
The Romney campaign also told Fox News that the robocalls did not mean Romney was entering the race himself. But they gave no indication Romney would rule out a draft nomination.
“Gov. Romney has offered and is glad to help Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. John Kasich in any way he can,” a source close to Romney said in a statement. “He’s been clear that he believes that Donald Trump is not the best person to represent the Republican Party and will do what he can to support a strong nominee who holds conservative values to win back the White House.”