Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) called on Republican donors to force candidates who have little to no chance to win the Republican nomination for president out of the race to prevent Donald Trump from winning.
The 2012 Republican presidential nominee-turned-chief critic of the former president within the GOP wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal that any candidate had a shot of beating Mr Trump if the contest became a two-person race.
“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,” he said.
Mr Romney set the deadline of 26 February, which would be after the Iowa caucuses, the New Hampshire primary, the Nevada caucus and the South Carolina primary.
He said plenty of Republican candidates with no chance of winning benefit greatly from their candidacies.
“Left to their own inclinations, expect several of the contenders to stay in the race for a long time,” Mr Romney noted. “They will split the non-Trump vote, giving him the prize. A plurality is all that is needed for winner-take-all primaries.”
Mr Romney also cited the presidential candidacy of his father, the late George Romney, when he ran in 1968 and how many moderate Republicans got behind him before the elder Romney dropped out and they pledged their support to Nelson Rockefeller to stop Richard Nixon.
But Mr Romney said such circumstances don’t exist today because of the rise of super PACs, which allow for unlimited fundraising.
“A few billionaires have already committed tens of millions of dollars,” he said. “They have a responsibility to give their funds with clear eyes about their candidate’s prospects.”
Mr Romney is the only Republican Senator who voted to convict Mr Trump for both of the former president’s impeachments in 2020 and 2021.
The former Massachusetts governor said donors who back a candidate with a slim chance should receive a hard pledge that they will drop out and back the candidate with the best chance of beating Mr Trump by 26 February.
“Donors may think that party leaders can narrow the field,” he wrote. “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.”
Polling in early states showed Mr Trump continues to hold a commanding lead in many of the early states, including Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
“Our party and our country need a nominee with character, driven by something greater than revenge and ego, preferably from the next generation,” he said. “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.”
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