BOSTON – Once fearing he would be viewed as “a loser for life” if he failed to win the presidency, Mitt Romney is trying to re-emerge as a force in Republican politics.
Romney has quietly sought kingmaker status in the GOP’s fight for the Senate majority this fall and its quest to retake the White House in 2016.
The effort at revival is fueling whispers about a third presidential run. But those closest to Romney suggest he’s more interested in shaping party politics by lending his name and record-breaking fundraising machine to what he considers the next generation of electable conservatives.
“I don’t think he’s ever been more popular than he is today,” said Spencer Zwick, who led a Romney campaign fundraising machine that raised more money than any Republican campaign in history.
Allies say Romney’s political brand has benefited from an ongoing leadership void in the Republican Party, “buyer’s remorse” from an electorate disappointed with President Obama’s second term, and a positive response to a recent documentary film, “Mitt,” that shows his personal side. But the resurgence comes in stark contrast to Romney’s own prediction leading up to his loss to Obama just a year and a half ago.
“I have looked, by the way, at what happens to anybody in this country who loses as the nominee of their party,” Romney says in “Mitt” during a candid moment. “They become a loser for life, all right? That’s it. It’s over.”
The former Massachusetts governor is fighting that perception in this midterm election year. His political stock will be on display this week as he hosts his annual “ideas summit” in Park City, Utah, a private event that features a handful of potential presidential contenders, key members of Romney’s inner circle and major political donors.
The $5,000-a-head gathering, which began Thursday, is expected to bring 250 to 300 people to a luxury resort in the heart of the Rocky Mountains.
This year’s theme is “American Leadership at Home and Abroad,” according to organizers who describe the informal conference as a nonpartisan exchange of ideas. But it’s not all panel discussions and speeches.
Zwick says the highlights will include a shotgun outing with Romney’s 2012 vice presidential pick, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, mountain biking with Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, and golfing with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.
The Utah gathering represents only a part of Romney’s impact on today’s political world. He has intensified efforts in recent weeks to influence the GOP’s midterm election strategy.