On January 30, former Republican nominee for President Mitt Romney decided to officially drop out of the race to represent the Republican party again in the 2016 Presidential Election. Romney had originally stated that he had no plans to run, but he reopened the possibility of candidacy again on January 9. Mitt’s approval numbers had increased greatly following his defeat in the 2012 election when he dropped out of public spotlight, increasing calls among many Republicans for him to run again. However, approval numbers since the announcement that he would look into running again have dropped, and reportedly key donors were shifting to other candidates. As a result, Romney said he would not run. This decision is impactful in shaping the picture of the Republican primaries for the 2016 election.
Romney’s announcement immediately benefits Jeb Bush, seen widely as the most mainstream, establishment-style candidate. The decision frees up potential donors and operatives to shift to the Bush camp now that there is no uncertainty surrounding Romney’s status. His departure also leaves more room for the other, more moderate candidates, such as Chris Christie, to emerge. The establishment vote will now be divided among fewer candidates, while the number of more conservative candidates remains the same. In addition, the polarizing comments which cost Romney the 2012 election—binders of women, 47%, etc.—no longer will distract from the other issues in the primary and continue to polarize both Republican and national voters. It is more likely that the Republican Party will be able to move beyond these comments in the next election.
Romney now has additional power as a kingmaker. He is still highly regarded among much of the Republican base, and an endorsement from him would be very influential. Many anticipate seeing how the Republican field shapes up in what promises to be an exciting 2016 election season and if the announcement actually puts Chris Christie and Jeb Bush in the spotlight. Meanwhile the other candidates will be jockeying for position to claim the resources left from Romney’s departure.