Romney's in demand as Republicans' future unclear

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...

23 PHOTOS
Mitt Romney general - updated 5/19/2015
See Gallery
Romney's in demand as Republicans' future unclear
Mitt Romney and Evander Holyfield fight in a charity boxing event on May 15, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The event was held to raise money for 'Charity Vision' a charity that aims to restore sight to the blind and visually impaired. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
Mitt Romney Visits 'The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon' at Rockefeller Center on March 25, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/NBC/Getty Images for 'The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon')
Mitt Romney is greeted by fellow Republicans at a dinner during the Republican National Committee's Annual Winter Meeting aboard the USS Midway on January 16, 2015 in San Diego, California. Romney is contemplating a possible 2016 presidential run. (Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney addresses the crowd during a rally for Republican Senate candidate Dan Sullivan at a PenAir airplane hangar on November 3, 2014 in Anchorage, Alaska. The U.S. Senate race in Alaska between incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Begich and Republican candidate Dan Sullivan continues to be closely contested. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)
Former Massachusetts Gov. and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney makes his way through supporters of Iowa Republican State Senator and U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst on October 11, 2014 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Ernst and Romney met with around 300 supporters at the event, one of many in the final weeks of Ernst's campaign for a U.S. Senate seat. U.S. Representative Bruce Braley (D-IA) and Ernst are virtually tied in polling to replace the seat occupied by retiring U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA). (Photo by David Greedy/Getty Images)
Governor Charlie Baker was sworn in as the governor of Massachusetts at a ceremony inside the House Chamber at the State House on January 8, 2015. Mitt Romney greets Chris Christie after Gov. Baker's swearing in. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Mitt Romney attends the New York Jets vs. Miami Dolphins game at MetLife Stadium on December 1, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Pereira/WireImage)
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney walks to the stage during a rally for Republican Senate candidate Dan Sullivan at a PenAir airplane hangar on November 3, 2014 in Anchorage, Alaska. The U.S. Senate race in Alaska between incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Begich and Republican candidate Dan Sullivan continues to be closely contested. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)
Former Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, delivers remarks during a 'CoMITT to the Comeback' rally for Michigan republican candidates October 2, 2014 in Livonia, Michigan. Among the Michigan candidates in attendance were U.S. Senate Candidate Terri Lynn Land, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, Attorney General Bill Schuette, and Secretary of State Ruth Johnson. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks during a political rally for Republican candidate for Colorado Governor Bob Beauprez, at Heritage High School, in the Denver suburb of Littleton, Colo., Monday, Sept. 29, 2014. Romney criticized Colorado Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper during a rally in which he cheered on GOP candidates for governor and Congress. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
Mitt Romney, the former Republican presidential nominee, addresses a crowd of supporters while introducing New Hampshire Senate candidate Scott Brown at a farm in Stratham, N.H., Wednesday, July 2, 2014. Brown, who is facing incumbent Democrat U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, was endorsed by Romney at the event. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney greets the lunch crowd at the Varsity, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014, in Atlanta. Romney attended a private fundraiser for Republican candidate for Senate David Perdue earlier. Romney is the Republican man in demand. The twice-defeated White House contender is campaigning across seven states in five days this week to raise money and energy for Republican midterm candidates. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Ann Romney and former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney attend the 3rd Annual NFL Honors at Radio City Music Hall on February 1, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 08: Former Republican presidential candiate and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney sits ringside fro the Patrick Hyland and Javier Fortuna WBA interim featherweight title fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on December 8, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Mitt Romney, the former Republican presidential nominee, kisses a supporter while campaigning for New Hampshire Senate candidate Scott Brown, right, at a farm in Stratham, N.H., Wednesday, July 2, 2014. Brown, who is facing incumbent Democrat U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, was endorsed by Romney at the event. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
FILE - In this Dec. 8, 2012, file photo, former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, center, joined by wife Ann, right, talks with an unidentified spectator at ringside prior to a welterweight fight between Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny Pacquiao title fight in Las Vegas. Romney has emerged from nearly four months in seclusion for an interview with Fox News. He’s also scheduled to deliver his first postelection speech this month at Washington’s Conservative Political Action Conference. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)
FILE - This Nov. 7, 2012 file photo shows Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney waving to supporters at an election night rally in Boston. Romney’s shadow looms over a GOP in disarray. Republican officials in Washington and elsewhere concede that Romney’s immediate withdrawal from politics _ while welcome by most _ has created a leadership void, leaving the GOP rudderless and fighting with itself during what may be the most important policy debate in a generation. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia, File)
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney pauses as he addresses campaign workers while visiting a campaign call center in Green Tree, Pa., Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and his wife Ann Romney emerge after they voted in Belmont, Mass., Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and wife Ann Romney vote in Belmont, Mass., Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney waves to a crowd gathered at a nearby parking lot after his campaign plane arrived at Moon Township Pittsburgh International Airport in Coraopolis, Pa., Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney gets a hug from Emma Nemecek, of Mt. Vernon, Iowa, during a rally for Iowa Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst, Friday, May 30, 2014, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney arrives on stage on election night November 7, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts, moments before conceding defeat to US President Barack Obama in the 2012 US presidential election. AFP PHOTO/EMMANUEL DUNAND (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION


ATLANTA (AP) - Almost two years after his Election Day drubbing, Mitt Romney is the Republican man in demand.

The twice-defeated White House contender is campaigning across seven states this week, covering nearly 6,000 miles in five days to raise money and energy for Republican midterm candidates from Georgia to Colorado.

Romney has repeatedly insisted he's not running for president again, and his closest aides laugh off a possible 2016 bid. But top GOP strategists and donors suggest his continued high profile in Republican politics highlights the party's murky future and a crowded 2016 field that is both flawed and without a clear front-runner

"There's a vacuum," said John Jordan, a major Republican donor based in California. "When there's 10 people in a possible presidential field, it's difficult for anyone to look presidential. None of these figures is overly compelling."

Just a month before the unofficial beginning of the next presidential primary season, Democrats have already begun to rally behind prospective candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton. The race for the Republican nomination, however, is as wide open as most political veterans can remember.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had begun to assume a party leadership role before a traffic scandal tainted his brand. Major questions persist about former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's commitment to the 2016 contest. And the rest of the potential field features conservatives, such as Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who have yet to demonstrate widespread appeal.

That leaves Romney as this season's strongest draw for Republican midterm candidates battling for control of Congress.

He earned a rock star's reception on Wednesday at The Varsity, a landmark Atlanta restaurant, where he campaigned alongside Attorney General Sam Olens after headlining a closed-door fundraiser for Senate candidate David Perdue.

Romney shook hands and autographed paper plates at The Varsity before ordering a hot dog and onion rings as diners snapped pictures.

In thanking Romney for making the trip, Olen said, "I wish you were on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave."

"I'm just sad I'm not able to be there either," Romney said, responding to a reporter's question about his interest in another run. "I'd like to be in the White House. I wish I would have had the chance."

The appearance was one leg in an aggressive five-day campaign swing covering some of the nation's premier midterm battlegrounds: Colorado, Virginia, Georgia, Oklahoma, Michigan, Kentucky and Louisiana. Having swapped his private campaign plane for commercial travel, Romney is working long days to attend private fundraisers and public rallies to help leading Republican governors, Senate candidates and former allies like Olens.

Talking to reporters Wednesday, Romney downplayed his role in a Republican Party that has "a whole series of different voices that are pulling in different directions."

"My role is just as one more voice," he said. "I was honored to become the Republican nominee, so I continue to have some voice. But I'm not running for anything - just trying to run to help people who are running for something, and I'm making my effort known in the states that welcome me."

Thursday he headlines a GOP rally in Michigan before a Kentucky fundraiser to benefit Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. It's the kind of schedule usually reserved for a political party's elite, not a twice-defeated elder statesman who insists his political career is over.

"The wandering eyes for Romney are a byproduct of the uncertainty of the field," said former Romney aide Kevin Madden, who described Romney as a "known commodity."

Hogan Gidley, a South Carolina-based veteran of presidential politics, explained Romney's appeal with a sports analogy.

"The most popular player on a football team is the backup quarterback when your team's struggling," Gidley said. "The party is struggling."

Indeed, even as the GOP's prospects this fall look good, polls suggest the party's brand is unpopular. And Republican leaders have ignored recommendations to address key issues such as immigration legislation ahead of the next presidential contest.

Still, donors like Jordan say they aren't yet worried.

All the Republican hand-wringing, he said, is like retailers worrying about Christmas sales in July.

Read Full Story

People are Reading