Mitt Romney is not only telling big donors that he is seriously considering running for President for a third time, he is also personally telling key Granite Staters.
While former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush announced weeks ago that he may run for President, he has made no known contacts in New Hampshire. Romney, on the other hand, has been busy on the phone.
Romney called Sen. Kelly Ayotte late Monday afternoon, spokesman Liz Johnson told the New Hampshire Journal. “They did speak late this afternoon,” she said.
Johnson had no further comment, but sources said Romney told Ayotte, who supported his run in 2012, that he is considering running again but has not made a decision, yet.
Veteran GOP operative Tom Rath, an adviser to the Romney campaigns of 2008 and 2012, told Journal he received a call from the 2012 GOP presidential nominee on Saturday morning. Although he was among the first to get such a call, he was not alone.
Romney’s 2008 campaign manager, Jim Merrill, who was an adviser during the 2012 campaign, said he received a call from Romney. The Washington Post reported that former Gov. John H. Sununu and 2014 U.S. Senate candidate Scott Brown also received calls.
Rath and Merrill committed immediately to Romney, should he run.
Another key Granite Stater is also on board. State Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, a former congressman, told the Journal: “If Mitt declares, I’m with Mitt.”
And, former Sen. Judd Gregg told the Journal he has spoken with Romney as well, but had “no comment on the specifics of the conversation.” Gregg backed Romney in 2012 but is also close to the Bush family. If Romney and Jeb Bush were to run, they would presumably battle for center-right “establishment” support in the first-primary state.
Rath said his conversation with Romney “largely echoed what has been written about. It is clear that he is very seriously considering this and he understands what it would take to engage at this point and what kind of a race it would take to win.
“He understands that this is a very different time and place – and candidate – than 2008 or even 2013 but he sounds very committed to this consideration process.”
Rath said that although the conversation was private, “What comes through is that I really think he has an ongoing desire to serve and believes that if he were to run and be successful, he could offer a great deal” to the nation. “And by the way,” Rath said, “I agree.”
He said he committed to again supporting Romney during their conversation.
Rath said, “Every New Hampshire primary has its own unique personality and environment and I think it’s great that he has been there. He has relationships and friends and knows his way around here. Having won the primary once, and having lost once, he knows this is a state where you have to win one voter at a time.”
He said he is confident that Romney “would make New Hampshire a priority and would go about it as he did last time, with lots of physical presence and a strong organization from the bottom up.”
Rath declined to discuss timetables but said that obviously, “eventually,” Romney would make public appearances in the state. Supporter, he said, “are trying to absorb these 72 hours and doing their agenda lists in their heads, but I think the big news is that he is actively considering it.”
Merrill said he spoke with Romney for about 10 minutes almost immediately after the Patriots wrapped up their playoff win over the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday evening.
“I’ll simply say it is very clear that he is seriously considering a candidacy for President. I was left without any question in my mind about that.” Merrill said that if Romney decides to run, “I will be there for him.”
Merrill also told the Journal he was provided no specifics about the timing of Romney’s decision, but he said, “There is a sense of urgency and he understands the need to figure out sooner rather than later. He had millions rally to him in 2012 and many have since wondered what the country and world would be like now had he won. He has a desire to serve and has shown the ability to lead the country.”