Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney says he has no plans to endorse a 2016 contender before a nominee is selected.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of his E2 Summit, which brought together six GOP candidates and about 250 top Republican donors, Romney said there are between six and eight candidates he agrees with on most policy issues and he believes would be effective presidents. After briefly flirting with a third White House attempt, Romney now says he has no regrets with his decision not to run, and spoke highly of Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, two candidates to whom his donors are flocking.
"I think there are probably six, or seven, or eight that I would look at and say that’s somewhere where they and I agree on major issues and they could be an effective President of the United States," Romney said. "And how it will sort out among those people, time will tell."
Asked about his role in the process, Romney said he would certainly support and fundraise for the nominee, whomever wins the nomination.
"Up until that point, I don’t expect to be becoming associated with any one campaign," he said, noting he's spoken with many of the contenders privately. "They’re going to have a long process to battle it out, we’ll see someone emerge and become our nominee, and I’ll then go to work for them."
Romney said there was one scenario in which he would endorse sooner: in the event a candidate he agreed with was facing off in the home stretch with one he disagreed with.
"At that stage I might jump in and say hey, I’d like to go to work and help the one who’s more in-tune with the things I believe," he said. "But I can’t predict how the process is going to work out."
Sen. Lindsey Graham, Gov. Scott Walker, Gov. John Kasich, Gov. Chris Christie, and former HP CEO Carly Fiorina attended the weekend conference along with Rubio at a slope-side resort in Deer Valley, Utah. Bush was invited, but was spending the week on a foreign trip in the lead-up to his presidential announcement on Monday.
Romney defended Rubio, who was on the short-list to be his running-mate in 2012, saying reports that Rubio's documented financial management missteps factored into his decision to pass on Rubio were "was not something in any which colored my feeling about Sen. Rubio" while he was vetting potential vice presidential picks.
"He wasn't in the same financial circumstances I was in," Romney said. "He was a guy from a middle income family, and gosh, the biggest sin that I saw in the story was that he bought a fishing boat. You know a guy in Florida, four kids, more power to him. Made a bunch of money selling a book, buying a fishing boat strikes me as a pretty nice thing to do for his family. Nothing to be ashamed of."
"I don't want to be critical of the New York Times," Romney added, in reference to reporting by the newspaper on Rubio's finances, "but they did buy the Boston Globe and the Worcester Telegram for $1.3 billion and sold it for $80 million. So if we're talking about bad investment decisions or spending decisions, I'd put that way higher on the list."
Romney spoke highly of the team Bush has assembled, days after a high-level shake-up saw the campaign-in-waiting shuffle its campaign manager.
"He has assembled a first-rate team," Romney said. "The people around him are experienced and capable. Many of them I know from my own campaigns and had I high regard for. And by all appearances he's raised a lot of money."
"I wouldn’t be surprised to hear he raised twice as much as all the others combined," Romney continued. "I think it’s going to be a big number, because he’s worked it very hard."