OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.
Sen. Mitt Romney has devised a new plan to prevent former President Donald Trump from winning the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.
The Utah Republican and twice-failed GOP presidential contender wrote in The Wall Street Journal this week that GOP donors should pull funding from a myriad of 2024 Republican presidential hopefuls and concentrate their efforts on backing a single candidate who could then run successfully against Trump for the nomination.
In the op-ed, which is titled, “Donors, Don’t Fund a Trump Plurality,” and subtitled, “As in 2016, Republican candidates won’t drop out soon enough. Here’s how to give them a push,” he outlined his strategy.
“Despite Donald Trump’s apparent inevitability, a baker’s dozen Republicans are hoping to become the party’s 2024 nominee for president. That is possible for any of them if the field narrows to a two-person race before Mr. Trump has the nomination sewn up,” Romney’s column begins.
“For that to happen, Republican megadonors and influencers—large and small—are going to have to do something they didn’t do in 2016: get candidates they support to agree to withdraw if and when their paths to the nomination are effectively closed. That decision day should be no later than, say, Feb. 26, the Monday following the contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina,” he added.
Romney went on to say that “no-hope candidates” often have incentives to prolong their campaigns. Even if they come in behind the first-place candidate, it can set the stage for another run in the future or may lead to lucrative opportunities, as seen with Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.
He then quoted former New Hampshire Gov. John H. Sununu: “It is fun running for president if you know you cannot win.”
“Left to their own inclinations, expect several of the contenders to stay in the race for a long time. They will split the non-Trump vote, giving him the prize. A plurality is all that is needed for winner-take-all primaries,” Romney wrote before delving into some political history:
Candidates themselves used to consolidate the field to achieve what they saw as a greater purpose. In 1968, potential candidates William Scranton, Charles H. Percy, Mark Hatfield, John Chafee and Nelson Rockefeller rallied around my father, George W. Romney, instead of seeking nomination themselves, because they believed he had the best shot of stopping Richard Nixon.
When my dad’s campaign faltered, he and they swung to Rockefeller to carry their cause forward. They were unsuccessful but not because of blind political ambition or vanity. They put a common cause above personal incentives.
Today, the narrowing of the candidate field does not occur as it did in the past, Romney said. The significant growth of super PACs has granted megadonors outsized influence on campaigns.
He added that, already, a small number of billionaires have pledged tens of millions of dollars. He says these donors have a responsibility to contribute their funds with a clear understanding of their candidate’s prospects. If donors are supporting a candidate with slim chances of winning, they should urge the candidate to commit to dropping out and endorsing the individual with the best chance of defeating Trump by Feb. 26, the Utah Republican added.
“Donors may think that party leaders can narrow the field. Not so. Candidates don’t listen to party officials, because voters don’t listen to them either. And the last people who would ever encourage a candidate to withdraw are the campaign staff and consultants who want to keep their jobs for as long as possible. They buck up candidates, promoting long-shot prospects and favorably biased internal polls,” he wrote.
Concluding, Romney said: “Our party and our country need a nominee with character, driven by something greater than revenge and ego, preferably from the next generation. Family, friends and campaign donors are the only people who can get a lost-cause candidate to exit the race. After Feb. 26, they should start doing just that.”