Mitt Romney: Rainmaker
May 30th, 2014
08:55 AM ET
9 years ago

Mitt Romney: Rainmaker

(CNN) - Mitt Romney's back in Iowa.

No, the two time Republican presidential candidate isn't launching a third run for the White House. Romney's made it clear a number of times that those days are over.

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Instead, the former Massachusetts governor and 2012 GOP nominee's in the Hawkeye State – which every four years kicks off the presidential caucus and primary calendar – to lend a helping hand to a fellow Republican.

Romney is on the campaign trail on Friday at events in Cedar Rapids and Davenport for state Sen. Joni Ernst, who's the frontrunner in a crowded field for Iowa's Republican Senate nomination.

"I have great friends here in this room, and I have friends from all over this state and all over the country, and I'm honored to be here with you to tell you why it is I think Joni ought to be the next United States senator," Romney said at the Cedar Rapids rally as he introduced Ernst.

Few would have predicted it following his defeat to President Barack Obama last time out, but Romney's become a major player again in GOP primary politics, as part of his increasing influential role in helping to shape the future of his party.

"What I am doing is campaigning across the country and helping raise money across the country for people who I think can get elected and can get America on a course once again with a strong foreign policy and with policies domestically that help families," Romney told reporters Friday in Iowa.

So far this election cycle, he's endorsed or donated money to some 20 candidates, many of them GOP establishment favorites who backed Romney in his White House runs.

Candidate with both grassroots and establishment backing

Ernst is different.

The state senator and lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard has the backing of both the tea party movement and establishment Republicans.

In the past few days, the political wing of the Senate Conservatives Fund, which often backs conservative candidates that launch primary challenges against incumbent Republican senators, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which mainly endorses mainstream Republicans, both went up with statewide ad buys in support of Ernst.

She grabbed national attention earlier this year by touting her hog castrating skills in a campaign commercial.

"Smart politics by Ernst to bring Romney to eastern Iowa and two counties that were Romney strongholds during the caucuses," said Iowa Republican consultant Matt Strawn, a former chairman of the state GOP.

Ernst is facing off against three other major candidates in next Tuesday's primary – businessman Mark Jacobs, former U.S. Attorney Matthew Whitaker, and conservative radio talk show host Sam Clovis. If no candidate cracks 35% of the GOP primary vote, the nomination will be decided by around 2,000 delegates at a state party convention.

Romney's visit to Iowa four days before the primary could pay dividends for Ernst.

"For a candidate like Ernst, who was largely unknown to Iowa's business and donor community before running, the Romney endorsement provided a boost of credibility with that important constituency. It was particularly important given her main primary opponent, businessman Mark Jacobs, was counting on that same constituency to be a cornerstone of his campaign," Strawn added.

Romney also stars in an online ad put out by the Chamber of Commerce Thursday that backs Ernst.

"I know Iowa's ready to play a crucial part in this year's elections and send a leader to Washington who will demand fiscal responsibility. Thankfully, Iowa conservatives have such a leader in Jodi Ernst," Romney says in the spot.

The GOP nominee will face off in the midterm elections against Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley, who faces token opposition in his party's primary. The winner of November's general election will succeed longtime Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, who is retiring at the end of the year. If Republicans flip Harkin's seat, and five other Democratic held seats, they will control the Senate.

Romney's winning picks

So far the candidates Romney's backed are coming out on top in their primary showdowns.

Romney endorsed and recorded a robo call for Dr. Monica Wehby, a pediatric neurosurgeon who won last week's GOP Senate primary in Oregon over a more conservative state lawmaker. The same night eight-term Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho beat back a serious primary challenge from a tea party backed candidate. Romney had endorsed Simpson and starred in a television commercial put out by the Chamber of Commerce that backed Simpson.

Asked Friday about his winning track record when it comes to primary endorsements, Romney told reporters "I wish I can take credit for that. The candidates take credit for that and I am sure we will have some successes and some that are not successful."

In California, two other candidates Romney's supporting face primary showdowns on Tuesday. Former California state lawmaker Tony Strickland, who backed Romney in his presidential campaigns, is running for an open U.S. House seat long held by the GOP. Romney is expected to record a robo call for Strickland before the primary.

And Romney's also backing former U.S. Treasury official Neel Kashkari, one of the Republicans challenging Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, the overwhelming favorite to win re-election this year. In California, the top two finishers in next week's primary, regardless of their political party, will face off in November's general election.

Earlier this week, Romney gave his blessing to Elise Stefanik, who's running for the party nomination in New York's 21st Congressional District. The state's primary is June 24. Stefanik was an aide on the 2012 campaign of Romney's running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

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Colorado also holds its primary on June 24. Romney's backing former Rep. Bob Beauprez in the state's GOP gubernatorial showdown. Beauprez was a major Romney surrogate in Colorado in 2012. And earlier this week, he traveled to the state to help raise money for Rep. Mike Coffman, who faces a difficult re-election in November.

Romney's new role

Romney stayed far from the political spotlight following his bruising defeat to Obama. But starting last spring when he hosted a summit in Park City Utah of some major political and business leaders, and last summer, when he headlined a fundraiser for the New Hampshire Republican Party, he's been getting more involved in shaping the future of his party and guiding the national conversation.

"By now, endorsing GOP candidates who have stood proudly with him over the last several years, the governor is sending a clear message that he remains an essential Republican leader in 2014," veteran New Hampshire Republican strategist Jim Merrill recently told CNN.

With the two living former Republican presidents, George W. Bush and his father, George H.W. Bush, both staying far from the political conversation, Romney has begun to fill the void.

"Mitt Romney is the most prominent and engaged elder statesman the GOP has on the national stage right now," added Merrill, who was a top adviser to him in the Granite State in his 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns.

Those close to Romney also add that his focus is helping others rather than polishing his legacy.

"The governor is the same guy he's always been, he wants to make a difference where and when he can," said Todd Cranney, the 2012 Romney campaign's deputy political director. "He wants to help friends who helped him in the past. But he also wants to be helpful to the Republican Party and to try and get the country back on track."

But some grassroots conservatives aren't so excited about Romney's increased involvement in party politics.

"Romney needs to go quietly into retirement. Let him spend time with his wife, his kids and grandkids but stay the hell out of the Republican Party," Judson Phillips, founder of the Tea Party Nation, a national tea party group, recently told CNN.

Romney breaks with many in GOP over minimum wage


Filed under: 2014 • Iowa • Joni Ernst • Mitt Romney
soundoff (44 Responses)
  1. Sniffit

    ""Public schools are not religious schools to be used to indoctrinate your community with your narrow beliefs."

    Imagine the opening of pandora's box (if you will) should this ever become the norm in America?"

    Now now....don't be silly...everyone knows that Jefferson's writings are replete with his fond imaginings of widespread publicly-funded Christian indoctrination camps for the childrens.

    May 30, 2014 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  2. Silence DoGood

    @Rudy NYC

    @ Rudy: "We're going to see well known Republicans who will never run for elected office again making reasonable and moderate sounding statements."

    Yes, but shouldn't Mitt Romney first make clear whether he's now become a moderate? I thought he stated last election that he was severely conservative?
    He still is severely conservative, at least behind closed doors. When he's in public, he wears the moderate mask, and becomes the altruistic speaker. While he may anger the base, what difference does it make? They know that the their guy/gal would never support views that were anything less than extreme.
    This is exactly why I am so happy when I see a TeaParty candidate speaking their mind. They don't have the common sense to know what they are spouting is generally abhorrent to the average American. They do not have that polite smiley moderate facade. Everyone needs to see how extreme and radical these folks are behind closed doors.

    May 30, 2014 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  3. rs

    The proper thing to do is sue the federal government for cramming Obamacare down our throats.
    The bill was crafted in Congress, with input from both sides, passed by the House and the Senate and signed by the President. It even survived a number of lawsuits and court challenges. What about that is improper to you?

    May 30, 2014 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  4. The REAL Truth...

    @AEJ – Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin new job title is "Endorser-n-chief for the Repubs". What a role!! What a shame!!
    What a joke! These folks pander to the lowest common denominator in their party. Uneducated, uninformed and naive folks who firmly believe everything they are told, and NEVER, EVER, EVER follow the money or look for alternative sources to validate what they are told.. It's why Fox is #1.

    May 30, 2014 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  5. Lynda/Minnesota

    "Romney needs to go quietly into retirement. Let him spend time with his wife, his kids and grandkids but stay the hell out of the Republican Party," Judson Phillips"

    Oh, no! I disagree. Who better than two time loser Mr. Mittens to become defacto leader of the two time losing GOP?

    Well, three time loser if we include 2016. Mr. Ben Ghazi is fast losing the momentum. If he ever had it to begin with.

    May 30, 2014 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  6. Sniffit

    "What a loss for our country when republicans were gerrymandered to take control of the house"

    This is why we need things like more high-speed rail (and why GOPers/Teatrolls oppose it and other things that would encourage population shift)....the "cityfolk" concentration needs to spread out and the GOP/Teatrolls are desperate to prevent it because it messes up their gerrymandering and reliance on rural red areas.

    May 30, 2014 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  7. Rudy NYC

    Sniffit wrote:

    "The proper thing to do is sue the federal government for cramming Obamacare down our throats." sure made the Koch brothers mad when they were temporarily removed from your throats to make way for the ACA. Oh, and by the to lawsuits? SCOREBOARD.
    Our political system has turned into a free market. Politicians and policy can be bought by the biggest contributor.

    May 30, 2014 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  8. Liberal Garbage

    Is obama mentally handicapped? Or is he that incompetant?

    May 30, 2014 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  9. Areyoua1percenter

    Republican voters get upset when you call them racist, religious idealogues, out of touch with reality, because the truth hurts. I hate all the references to the Republican party of old under Lincoln to Reagan, and the truth of the matter is the past is gone. Who are they now? The Tea Party is also out of touch with reality. The reality that not everyone is going to be blessed to end up like Romney and his buddies who walk this earth as Billionares. All this Christianity talk makes me sick to my stomach because i am a real Christian that votes Democrat because their agenda aligns with Christ teachings of loving your neighbor as yourself; of which He finalized the texts by saying, "And these are the greatest of the commandments..." Book of Matthew

    May 30, 2014 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  10. Stephen Mc

    “Romney needs to go quietly into retirement. Let him spend time with his wife, his kids and grandkids but stay the hell out of the Republican Party,” Judson Phillips, founder of the Tea Party Nation, a national tea party group, recently told CNN.

    Let this Phillips guy run for president and see how he does.

    May 30, 2014 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  11. drake mallard

    There was a man call mitt romney who did too little too late with tax havens and offshore accounts. He was a rich man he was raised in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan/ Rich from birth, raised in prep schools, no early exposure to minorities outside of maids, a powerful daddy to clean up his misstepss . timely exemptions from military service What a dope this trust fund baby was. His tax-cut math just doesn't add up. He never had to earn anything he talk smack about 47% not paying taxes and responsibility to care for them, Who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing you-name-it. He said saved business with “creative destruction." It's the age-old theory that the new must constantly attack the old to bring efficiency to the economy, even if some are destroyed along the way, mitt was born-insecure, he understand the hardships facing ordinary Americans. For example, one of his cars was out of gas so he have to pump his own gas he know hardship. born-insecure, jock-jawed ! His Tax policy are made up of small mystical creatures and health problems are already solved through the miracle of .emergency rooms! He loves being able to fire people who provide services to him. mitt the twit is not concerned about the very poor because We have a safety net there. He lost to a man with unemployment at 8% /Now look at him shiver. Beg for mercy, rich man.

    May 30, 2014 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  12. Gurgyl

    --Sniffit, you have good point, but to my surprise, do these republicans care to think properly? Bunch of sheep branding themselves republicans–no matter what. Thanks for the input.

    May 30, 2014 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  13. rs

    alternate reality

    Also amazed at how successfully the gop has demonised the unions, how many of you bashing them enjoy the benefits your great great grandfathers shed blood for. How many enjoy the benefit they fought to get for you, paid breaks, paid holidays, vacations, overtime pay after 40 hours, and they fought for the 40 hour work week, they worked you like a dog 14-16 hours a day for the sane pay you got working less, the rich and business owners want to kill them, and don't think for a minute you won't notice a change, if they're wouldn't be a difference, they wouldn't be pushing so hard to outright kill them, wake up for crying out loud, ask yourself a serious question, what have they done for you, really what, I'd like to know.
    Hear, hear.

    The GOP prove daily they have no regard for the poor, the sick, the elderly, our Vets, or children. Which raises a far more ominous question: Who are they for?

    May 30, 2014 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  14. sly

    Romney? That's funny. I wonder how many times he'll switch candidates.

    I'm betting by the time the election rolls around, Mitt Romney will endorse Hillary Clinton.


    May 30, 2014 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  15. The REAL Truth...

    @Liberal Garbage – Is obama mentally handicapped? Or is he that incompetant?
    He probably SPELLS much better!

    May 30, 2014 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  16. smith1

    mitt can't seem to go quietly he craves the spotlight. With all his money he can't seem to buy the presidency . He will affect any policy if he thinks that is what people want to hear. Sad that the affordable health care that he started is now on his hit list. If he cared about people he would not only endorse it but help to make it work for us 47% .

    May 30, 2014 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  17. rs

    Liberal Garbage

    Is obama mentally handicapped? Or is he that incompetant?
    Really? Your last at bat, Mr. Bush choked on a pretzel and started a war in the wrong country-then crashed the economy. By comparison Mr. Obama is a flipping genius!

    May 30, 2014 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  18. The REAL Truth...

    @Silence DoGood – This is exactly why I am so happy when I see a TeaParty candidate speaking their mind. They don't have the common sense to know what they are spouting is generally abhorrent to the average American. They do not have that polite smiley moderate facade. Everyone needs to see how extreme and radical these folks are behind closed doors.
    As an independent I'm not overly enamoured by the BS from either side, but I've had to go to my deep waders with the effluence coming from the GOP/TP over the last 6 yrs.. Unbelievable, yet the TP fails to recognize the self-inflicted damage, that most Americans are moderates and they are hastening their own demise with their current platform.
    What was that again ??

    May 30, 2014 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  19. george

    In a LOCKED UP GOP Convention Nomination Process.....He may "well be called upon" step forward and he would win in a LANDSLIDE>

    May 30, 2014 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
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