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Romney 'dismayed' by presidential choices, won't run as independent

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SALT LAKE CITY — Mitt Romney made it clear Thursday he won't support fellow Republican Donald Trump for president, suggesting that voters may need to look to a third-party candidate.

But the GOP's 2012 presidential nominee quickly ruled out running himself as an independent candidate for president this November at an awards dinner in Washington, D.C., for the American Friends of the Hebrew University.

"No, I'm certainly going to be hoping we find someone who I have my confidence in who becomes nominee," Romney said when asked if he'd get in the race, according to a Washington Examiner article about his remarks.

Later, the Washington Post reported that Romney had met privately Thursday before the dinner with leading conservative William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard magazine, to discuss a possible independent run for the White House.

Kristol, who has been searching for a candidate to make an independent bid, told the Washington Post he's hoping Romney "begins to think about it a little more. His name is one of the names that is part of the discussion."

Recently, James Matties, a retired Marine Corps general, ruled out getting in the presidential race. Kristol said if there is an independent candidacy, "Romney's support would be very important."

At the dinner, Romney said he doesn't intend to support "either majority party candidate at this point," without naming Trump or the candidates on the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

There's "way too much demagoguery and populism on both sides of the aisle," he said, citing a recent commencement speech by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who recently decided against a third-party presidential bid.

Romney said he'd like to see his 2012 running mate, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., run for president but concluded Ryan "is where he needs to be," given the uncertainty of the presidential race.

I wish we had better choices, and I keep hoping that somehow things will get better, and I just don't see an easy answer from where we are.

–Mitt Romney

Given the options available, Romney said he is "dismayed at where we are now. I wish we had better choices, and I keep hoping that somehow things will get better, and I just don't see an easy answer from where we are."

That position may well have an influence Utah Republicans, who gave Trump a distant third-place finish in the state party's March 22 presidential preference election.

All of the state's 40 GOP delegates went to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz after Romney urged Utah Republicans to join him in voting for Cruz over Ohio Gov. John Kasich as the best choice to keep the billionaire businessman from winning the nomination.

Romney fueled the "Stop Trump" movement earlier this year by slamming Trump as a fraud and a phony in a widely covered speech at the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics aimed at voters nationwide.

"Utah Republicans seem to mirror Romney's views," said Kirk Jowers, a longtime Romney supporter. "Based on the Utah vote and polls, we can surmise that most Utah Republicans are dismayed that Trump is the GOP nominee."

Jowers said they're also "overwhelmingly conservative" and unable to support Clinton despite a Deseret News/KSL poll showing Utah would pick a Democrat for president for the first time since 1964 if Trump is at the top of the ticket.

"Accordingly, these next few months will be a soul-searching time for conservatives who love their country, feel a civic responsibility to participate and vote, and want to to the right thing but see no good path ahead," Jowers said.


Jason Perry, head of the the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics, said Romney refusing to support Trump and raising the possibility of a third-party candidate entering the race could put pressure on Trump to do what it takes to unite the party.

Other Republicans leaders, including Ryan, haven't gone as far as Romney, saying only that they're not ready to support Trump. Gov. Gary Herbert, who endorsed Cruz, said this week that he needed to vet Trump further before making a decision.

"There's going to be some effort to get Donald Trump to moderate," Perry said. Whether Trump will be willing to soften his controversial stances such as banning Muslims from entering the country, however, remains to be seen.

"That is what these political leaders want to find out. They want to know where they can find some common ground — or at least enough space where they can get behind him," Perry said.

That may take awhile, but it can be done, University of Iowa political science professor Tim Hagle said, even though Romney may not be helping that process along.

Romney's talk of a third-party candidate could be seen as a signal to Trump that he needs to work harder to win over the GOP establishment, Hagle said, or as offering an out to conservatives who believe Clinton will win no matter how they vote.

"It's true that Trump has taken an approach that many found distasteful," Hagle said. But now that Cruz and Kasich have dropped out, Republicans can "wrap their head around that it's going to be Trump. There's time to heal."

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Lisa Riley Roche


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