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. AEJ

    Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin new job title is "Endorser-n-chief for the Repubs". What a role!! What a shame!!

    May 30, 2014 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  2. Rudy NYC

    Mitt Romney: Rainmaker
    Mitt Romney: Kingmaker

    FIFY. Romney is part of this "rebranding" of the Republican Party. We're going to see well known Republicans who will never run for elected office again making reasonable and moderate sounding statements. Ignore him. Pay attention to the elected people. Pay attention to what they say, and what they vote for and against. That's all that really matters.

    May 30, 2014 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  3. Tony

    Romney endorsed himself in 2012, and he lost.

    May 30, 2014 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  4. The Republican Party Is Dead To Me

    He's every thing that's wrong with the republican party, and politicians in general. They believe they are the end all, be all, when actually they are the bottleneck in the progress of man. GO AWAY.

    May 30, 2014 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  5. Lynda/Minnesota

    "he's been getting more involved in shaping the future of his party and guiding the national conversation."

    Who on earth came up with this talking point garbage? If anything, the dude is still shaking his Presidential Mitt Romney has the momentum Etch A Sketch.

    Love the photo of President Romney standing by the flag. A Romney presidential reenactment, perhaps?

    May 30, 2014 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  6. turd cruzin

    Two time Republican loser = rainmaker, they never fail to impress with their absurdities. Oh, he can still win Ohio, lmao.

    May 30, 2014 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  7. turd cruzin

    He's more like a three or four time loser, and he's their rainmaker, that speaks volumes, it really does.

    May 30, 2014 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  8. Sniffit

    That's not rain. That's plutocrats like him peeing on the legs of the middle-class and poor.

    May 30, 2014 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  9. Gurgyl

    --my fervent advise to this guy is just change the color, be a democrat–because, know this none of the GOP guys talk any kind of sense to me and to the nation–they don't care poor, women, American Middle-Class folks. I advised to Criss Christi too. Good luck.

    May 30, 2014 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  10. Lynda/Minnesota

    @ 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?

    May 30, 2014 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  11. Sniffit

    "Jindal blasts Common Core at GOP conference"

    Yet another journalism fail for CNN. You failed to mention the overwhelming evidence floating about that LA, under Booby Jingle, is blatantly using school vouchers as a way of funneling children into schools that teach nonsense like "the Loch Ness monster is evidence that man and dinosaurs cohabited the Earth" and "creationism is just as much science as evolution." Helping him broadcast his screeds against Common Core is biased when you fail to also mention what he and his administration are undeniably trying to do with the LA voucher program: indoctrinate a new generation of conservative Christians.

    May 30, 2014 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  12. Rudy NYC

    Does anyone remember the false ad about the Jeep plant in Ohio moving to China two weeks before the election, which was about a week before Superstorm Sandy? Romney and his campaign stood behind their claims, even after they were denied by top executives of Chrysler/Jeep. Even after photos and videos were shown of the plant in operation and construction underway to expand it, Romney still stood behind the blatantly false claims and continued to run the false ad. And that is when Romney's poll numbers began to fall outside of the margin of error.

    May 30, 2014 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  13. 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.

    May 30, 2014 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  14. What a shame!

    What a loss for our country than Romney was not elected president. Obama, the empty suit, continues to be an embarrassment around the world.

    May 30, 2014 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  15. Sniffit

    "@ 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?"

    I'm pretty sure that Mittens couldn't make a glass of filtered water clear. He's a grifter and a dissembler who believes, along with his mindless supporters, that his vast wealth is a sign of his virtue and the importance of his opinions.

    May 30, 2014 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  16. 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.

    May 30, 2014 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  17. Lynda/Minnesota

    "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?

    May 30, 2014 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  18. rs

    Rainmaker=water diviner? I'd take the apparently sane Mr.Romney over the GOP's shooters, castrators, plumbers, bikers, witches and other lunatics. The problem is however, I have no desire for Mr. Romney's "America is for the rich only" brand of plutocracy. That means virtually any Democrat trumps the best the GOP has to offer until they return to reasonable ideology.

    How did the GOP sink so low?

    May 30, 2014 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  19. Bill from GA

    BOTH parties need to shake their Etch-A-Sketch, or polish their Christal Ball, Whatever, and find some new candidates.

    America deserves better.

    May 30, 2014 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  20. Tampa Tim

    The proper thing to do is sue the federal government for cramming Obamacare down our throats.
    Did you forget? Short term memory? The red states sued and lost, costing their citizens millions of dollars of tax payer money. Republicans are pretty good at spending other peoples' money.

    May 30, 2014 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  21. Tampa Tim

    What a loss for our country when republicans were gerrymandered to take control of the house. We had a chance to overcome the ineptness of the last republican president, but instead the shutdown obstructionists hold our country hostage.

    May 30, 2014 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  22. Tom

    There's a difference between winning primaries and general elections (Mr. Romney is a shining example). The real test is how many of Romney's picks actually win the general election.

    May 30, 2014 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  23. DrDSW4

    Lies and smears seem to be all the "Republican't" party has. Unless Republicans immediately begin to govern by doing what is right for the least among us as well as helping to rebuild the middle class their party destroyed; recognizing global climate change; stop fabricating and smearing because they have no useful policies; recognize and admit all the problems their own party caused; and actually work with Obama and Democrats to make Medicare for all; rebuild our national infrastructure and secure that infrastructure from impending disasters; give up their "we need a war" to keep defense contractors wealthy philosophy; stop doing ALEC's and the Koch brothers among other oligarchs' bidding; raise the minimum wage, secure social security and Medicare including raising the rates for the wealthy; restore women's health and reproductive rights; tax the wealthy and close the loopholes as well as stop corporate welfare and subsidizes, and many other common sense and practical for survival moves, implement the ideas of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders; and began to act as thoughtful, concerned human beings; how can Republicans survive much less win over the populace they are destroying second by second?!

    May 30, 2014 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  24. Marie MD

    And yet we are still hearing and being appraised of what this twit and animal abuser says and does.
    What a country. He and the screecher from AK need to be on the first manned ship to Pluto! The sooner the better.
    How's that car elevator mansion going? Has Queen Anne bought any nice looking tees with no fish on them?

    May 30, 2014 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  25. Sniffit

    "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.

    May 30, 2014 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
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