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Romney loyalists ponder a future with Trump


    Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures during a rally in Richmond, Va., Friday, June 10, 2016.

PARK CITY, Utah >> Donald Trump can be an effective president, and he’s going to win with you or without you, Republican Chairman Reince Priebus told several hundred of the party’s top donors and strategists Saturday.

Trump is setting a dangerous example for Americans by promoting “trickle-down racism,” and the party must look beyond this presidential election to find its future, the 2012 nominee Mitt Romney told the same group later that morning.

Delivered within moments of each other at Romney’s annual business and politics summit at a five-star ski resort, those opposite messages were enough to cause whiplash. That’s a hazard of being a Republican this year, as the party struggles to figure out what to do with its controversial presumptive presidential nominee.

Blinking back tears as he spoke, an impassioned Romney said many have asked him to get off his “high horse” and back Trump, seeing presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton as unacceptable. “Either choice is destructive,” Romney said. “I love this country. I love the founders. I love what this country is built upon, and its values. And seeing this is breaking my heart.”

Romney said he would not spend time campaigning for or against Trump and predicted 90 percent of Republicans would vote for Trump.

The attendees, about 300 of Romney’s longtime donors and friends, provided a snapshot of the wide range of GOP sentiment about Trump. While most are eager to keep Clinton out of the White House, Trump keeps giving many of them pause, the latest example being his comments that a federal judge’s Mexican heritage prevents him from fairly overseeing a lawsuit against him.

Behind closed doors at the summit, Hewlett Packard President Meg Whitman likened Trump to Mussolini and Hitler and suggested she might vote for Clinton. GOP strategists and vocal Trump skeptics Stuart Stevens, Ana Navarro and Kristen Soltis Anderson told attendees to brace for a Clinton White House because Trump doesn’t appeal to growing voter blocs, including Latinos.

“It’s very difficult to envision” how Trump can win, Anderson said in a rare on-the-record session.

House Speaker Paul Ryan squirmed as he was asked how he could support Trump after denouncing the candidate’s comments about the judge. He demurred, as he did during Whitman’s Trump tirade, saying his leadership position means he must convey the will of Republican representatives, not just his own.

Spencer Zwick, Romney’s former finance chairman and the current one for Ryan, tried to navigate the complex terrain between the two men, the former presidential nominee and his running mate.

“I would love to see the Republican Party come together,” Zwick said. “At the same time, with comments like the one Donald Trump have made recently, I don’t subscribe to that type of rhetoric. And I’m not an elected official. I don’t have to make an endorsement. There’s no pressure.”

Yet many Republicans at the summit want to find a way — and some can’t.

“For me to jump in, this pivot has to come. We’re still in primary mode, I guess because it has a reality TV feel. But the pivot has to happen, and it’s not,” said John Rakolta Jr., a former fundraiser and family friend of Romney who lives in Michigan. “I’m an optimist by nature, and I keep hoping and hoping and hoping that there will be a reason to support him.”

Lanhee Chen, Romney’s former policy director, had been feeling the same way — until recently.

“The last two weeks have given me serious doubts as to whether he could beat Hillary Clinton,” said Chen, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution. He said he is particularly bothered by Trump’s personal attacks on Romney, but also sees red flags in Trump’s comments about the judge and seeming unwillingness to build out his campaign infrastructure.

And there were those now firmly on Team Trump. Anthony Scaramucci, a New York investor, and Andy Puzder, a California fast-food chain executive, shook the money trees for their candidate. “This is not a rabidly anti-Trump crowd,” Scaramucci said. “If anything, people are trying to find ways to diplomatically support the candidate.”

Puzder said potential donors left him feeling encouraged. He said he respected people, including Romney, who might not get there. His pitch on Trump was to stay positive, reminding anyone who would listen that Trump has great children, which says something about his character.

Most of the three-day conference’s sessions were closed to reporters, but described in detail by multiple attendees. Called the Experts and Enthusiasts summit, the gathering is sponsored by Solamere Capital, a private equity firm co-founded by Zwick and one of Romney’s sons.

Missing from the gathering was Trump himself; he has never been invited to speak to the Romney crowd. (Last year, half-a dozen presidential candidates attended, but Trump hadn’t announced his bid and wasn’t taken seriously by almost anyone in the party.)

Trump weighed in from afar, saying at a Saturday rally in Tampa that Romney is bitter because he’s a failed presidential candidate who “choked like a dog.”

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  • All the Republican opposition to Mr. Trump comes from RINO’s. The RINO’s are making themselves known and for the public to know. They say they are Republicans and yet fail to support the Republican candidate for President. Truly interesting.

    • You keep on saying that, but the powerful indicator is where they are on the electoral college votes. Every legitimate poll has HRC besting Trump by a minimal margin of 80 eleco college votes,and some tipping to the 100-120 vote side. His only chance is to win whether California or NY and that’s almost an impossibility as they are the two most diverse states (blacks and Hispanics) and two of the most democratic states. So again, I ask you, in all honesty, and being fact based, how do you expect him to win???

      • I agree with you he can’t win those two liberal states and they have dominant electoral votes. CNN broke it down and he MUST take Florida, Ohio, New Jersey and a couple of others–it will be an uphill fight–Obama has put so many on welfare they don’t want to lose that free s-it!!! Another thing, Romney could have won if he were tough against BO–but he tried to be Mr Nice Guy–we won’t see that in Trump.

        • Correct. What is also key to the equation is now Ds have a dexterity of strategies, that is to say, they can “play chess” and make Rs to defend states, i.e waste money, on anywhere to 7-8 states. This will quickly deplete R coffers, factor in that Trump for all his proclaimed wealth, and his ivery undiplomatic ways ticking off huge R donors ( cue in Kock bros), he is starting 200-300 million behind HRC, they have essentially already lost the election, and many R party leaders are already admitting this behind the scenes.

      • If you stay home or fail to vote or vote for the “other” aka Independent.____Is a Vote for Hillary!

        Yes California will swing to Hillary and the Hispanics, New York? Not too much.
        Though Many do not like the Donald,the question should be? Between the two? ____Who is the Greater Evil?
        Yes Boo! You need to also realize the Games has Only Begun. It begins this ….. Monday.

        • As long as you equate voting for Gary Johnson as a wasted vote, then you perpetuate that perception, despite the undeniable fact that never before have we faced such a dismal pair of presidential prospects as we do now. As the election approaches and the frustration builds, we should be encouraging others to “do the right thing” by voting for a good choice rather than a bad one.

      • Boo, you are correct on the current review, but the true data and reviews will be after both National Conventions. At that time and date, we can discuss details of where the Country is in relation to electoral votes and who will be elected president of the United States.

      • He can’t win. No one with more than 1/2 a brain is going to vote for him. Obviously.

        He has the white supremacist vote, the imbecile vote and racist vote locked up for sure.

        • Clinton word of the day.
          a person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion.

        • But do they get 1/2 a vote then? LOL There are a lot of people that will vote for him, a lot of scary people in this country.

        • The racist vote?

          Like the plus 90% of blacks who voted for the black guy? And the La Raza (The Race) vote? So he has the white, Latino and black votes? This should be interesting.

        • One must yield to your obvious authority when it comes to speaking on behalf of those with half a brain.

          The Donald eats pipsqueaks like you for breakfast and how does he do it? By being UNDERESTIMATED by pipsqueaks like you.

          By all means DOOOOOO carry on.

    • Indeed kuro ! What will be more interesting, is to see how many RINO’s will lose their seats,come the next congressional election.Because they did not listen to the voice of their constituents… Yes! It’s all about the “Optics”!
      Hypothetical question….
      What if?? Trump turned out to be a Greater President than President Reagan? How is that going to look because ,it was they who failed to endorse The Donald?

      • MoiLee, A President Trump would be a Greater President than President Reagan. Here is how, nominations to the U.S. Supreme Court, the 3rd Part of our Government. There is a possibility of President Trump nominating up to 4 of the 9 seats, with 3 of the 5 already known Originalists. Other Trump issues, building the wall between Mexico and United States, repealing and replacing Obamacare, amending the Immigration laws and policies, amending existing trade agreements, approving the Keystone pipeline, repealing the Iran agreement, repeal all the illegal Obama executive orders. etc. which are protected by the U.S. Constitution and Congress. This will make America Great Again.

        • Seaborn, issues are horrific for you, and a blessing for the large majority of Americans. Have you an alternative for when the FBI serves a warrant to Hillary? Even the WH announced that there is a criminal investigation against Hillary.

  • The fact is that the future with Mr. Trump won’t last very long. He’s going to lose in a historic electoral landslide to Mrs. Clinton. So we all need to tolerate his racism, intolerance and ignorance only until November. Good riddance to him.

    The thing that makes the burden of listening to his racist rants until November worthwhile is the fact that in addition to losing the presidency, he’s almost certain now to take the Senate down with him, and possibly even the House. WOW!. That can’t happen soon enough!

    • Klastri, for you, what happens when the voters and electoral college elect Mr. Trump as the United States President? Indications throughout the Country indicates a close race with Mr. Trump being the winner. We, you and me, gotta watch the development of how the voters will vote in Florida, New York, Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and California. These are some of the critical states in this years Presidential election. Between now and November, if there is an ISIS attack in the United States, Mr. Trump becomes President.

      • Of the states mentioned, not ONE poll has Trump winning any of those states, just show me one poll, for one state. The truth of the matter is that he would need to actually win ALL the states listed……that is not just improbable, the data just does not support it on any level. Let’s keep to facts, not aspirational platitudes….

  • “Trump weighed in from afar, saying at a Saturday rally in Tampa that Romney is bitter because he’s a failed presidential candidate who “choked like a dog.””
    Just another in the long list of spew from Donald Trump, displaying how non-Presidential a candidate can be.

    • Isn’t being non-presidential the theme this year with Bernie and Donald supporters? They want something different. Not the tired “same old same old” establishment doctrine that Hillary and Romney supports. If you like the status quo, vote for Clinton. If you are tired of the status quo, vote for someone else. As for Bernie and his supporters, it was a nice decent try. But look out! Ole Hillary’s tying to buy out Bernie’s support leaders. Typical. Maybe we should all look seriously at Gary Johnson as we head towards November.

      • Agreed. Supporters of either Donald or Hillary should be equally ashamed. As Gary’s identity and philosophy become better known, fueled by a growing rejection of the frontrunners, polls will show a steady increase in his popularity. GoTrump! Go Hillary!

    • The fact of the matter is that Romney DID choke like a dog when he allowed debate “moderator” Candy Crowly to enter the debate on the side of the current occupant of the White House. Instead of going after her Gingrich-style, he wilted. It was at that exact moment he lost all credibility and the then coming election.

      Romney then revealed his true nature as a Quisling this year with his spiteful attacks on Trump whose monetary donations he was quick to accept four years ago.

  • The party made him sign an agreement support whomever won the nomination before the debates began to insure that he will not as a 3rd party candidate. Some party members are now reneging. A no vote for for Trump is a shoo in for “crooked Hillary”. Myself although not fan of Trump will vote for him.

      • Sorry I’m late. Millions of clear thinking people will vote for Mr Trump instead of a criminal. The FBI isn’t finished. Bernie is also hanging in there causing Hillary’s tears. Gotta love it. TRUMP 2016

        • Too much has happened to sweep the Hillary emails under the rug without at least a cursory interview. Who knows, she, her aides and Obama might all plead the fifth.

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