Mitt Romney is hosting Christie and his wife, Mary Pat, at his waterfront compound on picturesque Lake Winnipesaukee on Friday night, people familiar with the plans said....This isn't the first time Romney has extended invitations to multiple establishment-friendly candidates -- last month, he and Sheldon Adelson had a gathering in Utah that was attended by Christie, Rubio, Lindsey Graham, Scott Walker, John Kasich, and Carly Fiorina. As I said at the time, that event seemed intended as a show of support for candidates with an Adelsonian foreign policy (i.e., not Rand Paul).
On Friday night, though, Romney will have the Christies as overnight guests. But they won't be the only non-family members in the house. Fellow GOP hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and his wife, Jeanette, are also joining the Romneys for Friday night's slumber party.
But notice who didn't attend the Utah event -- Jeb Bush. Jeb's also not sleeping over on the lake in New Hampshire tonight.
Romney seemed to be deferring to Jeb when he decided not to run for president this year, but I'm starting to wonder whether he's looking for a way to help Jeb's rivals at Jeb's expense.
I just found myself rereading the story Mark Halperin wrote the day he thought Romney would announce his candidacy; Halperin was embarrassed, of course, when Romney announced he wouldn't run. Nevertheless, the story includes this still-interesting nugget:
Public comments from both Mitt and Ann Romney suggested that the Romneys thought Jeb would make a strong candidate and an able president -- and that his presence in the contest would remove any obligation Romney felt to seek the office himself.I'm guessing that that last sentence tells us what's really responsible for the Romneys' disdain of Jeb. The rest is just Mitt persuading himself that his dim view of Jeb is based on careful and dispassionate analysis rather than raw emotion.
But those familiar with Romney’s thinking as he's been contemplating a run and over the years say that he has held a jaundiced view of the former Florida governor dating all the way back to his handling of the Terri Schiavo case, and has come to see Bush as a non-entity in the 2016 nomination contest. Romney is said to see Bush as a small-time businessman whose financial transactions would nonetheless be fodder for the Democrats and as terminally weighed down with voters across the board based on his family name. Romney also doesn’t think much of Bush’s political skills (a view mocked by Bush’s camp, who say Romney is nowhere near Bush’s league as a campaigner). Romney also considers Bush the national Republican figure who was the least helpful to him during his last run for the White House, a position that has darkened Ann Romney’s view of Bush as well.
Establishment Republicans should probably settle on somebody who seems safe -- Bush, Rubio, whoever -- and just try to get that candidate elected. But if it's Jeb, I sense that Romney won't want to play along. I continue to believe Romney is a Nixonian resentnik, and that he doesn't realize this about himself. Let's see if there's more evidence that he's trying to undermine Jeb in the future.
Jeb, by the way, is holding "two intimate campaign events" (a dinner and a staff briefing) in Kennebunkport this weekend, according to theNew York Post's Page Six.
UPDATE: And now:
Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, will travel to the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport, Me., early next week for a private lunch meeting with Jeb Bush, according to a person briefed on the plans who was not authorized to discuss the meeting.
Mr. Romney and Mr. Bush, who have had a strained relationship for years, last met in January in Utah, when Mr. Romney was considering running for the White House for a third time.