Mitt Ronney is hosting a little shindig in Utah this weekend featuring Sheldon Adelson and half a dozen Republican presidential aspirants. Politico's Alex Isenstadt describes the gathering in non-specific terms, as an attempt to impose order on the Republican presidential race:
Mitt Romney is working with an unlikely collaborator -- Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino mogul who bankrolled Newt Gingrich’s 2012 campaign -- in the hopes of ensuring that the GOP primary produces a mainstream conservative without any of the mayhem that marked his own race.
The two, who speak monthly, aim to convince the wealthy contributors bankrolling various candidates to work together to avoid the kind of primary election chaos that Romney believes laid the seeds for his defeat in 2012.
But a read a little more closely and the point becomes obvious:
One big question hanging over Romney is whether he’ll endorse a candidate. He would be most likely to provide his seal of approval, friends say, if the primary contest turns into a battle between a pragmatic candidate and one who isn’t.
“There’s the possibility that there might be someone who emerges strong who I agree with on a whole host of issues, and then someone else comes along who I find not as attractive from a policy standpoint or another standpoint. And at that stage I might jump in and go to work to help the one who’s more in tune with the things I believe,” Romney told reporters on Friday evening....
Romney, however, is wary of the risks involved in getting behind a contender. He’s relishing his role as an informal adviser -- Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, and Chris Christie have all sought him out for his private counsel -- and endorsing would mean relinquishing that power.
So, to sum up: While Romney does want to send the message that the invitees -- Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham, Chris Christie, Scott Walker, John Kasich, and Carly Fiorina -- could all potentially have access to Adelson's millions and his own donor network, his main goal is to prevent a primary victory by "someone ... who I find not as attractive from a policy standpoint or another standpoint."
Rand Paul, in other words.
Romney, the invitees, and Adelson all share a neoconservative worldview. Nothing in the Politco story suggests that Romney or Adelson would prefer any one of the invitees to any of the others. They just want to make sure the primary process doesn't put Paul in a position to win the nomination. Romney, Adelson, and they're pals are prepared to do a serious intervention to prevent that from happening.
I don't know why they're worried -- as The Atlantic's Molly Ball recently wrote, Paul's campaign is taking on water:
... Paul seems to be flailing, and fighting for space in the crowded GOP landscape. He’s tied for fourth place in the average of national polls, fifth in Iowa, third in New Hampshire. His fundraising isn’t going well -- he’s even been frozen out by the top donor to his father, the former Texas congressman Ron Paul. He’s struggling to earn the backing of his father’s rank and file supporters, as well. And while Rand Paul’s recent maneuvers in the Senate succeeded in derailing renewal of the Patriot Act, they also served to highlight the unpopularity of his national-security positions within his party -- and the stunt got far less buzz than the 2013 filibuster that made him a hero to many conservatives.
I suppose Paul could exceed expectations in an early state or two, especially if the rest of the field fails to generate enthusiasm. But I think Romney and Adelson are worried about nothing.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog