Romney says it again: 'I'm not running'
Romney criticizes White House foreign policy
Evan Vucci, Associated Press
PARK CITY — Former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Friday he is not considering another run despite talk about drafting him into the race during his annual retreat for his contributors that includes White House hopefuls.
"I think people make a lot of compliments to make us all feel good, and it's very nice and heartening to have people say such generous things, but I'm not running and they know it," Romney told reporters at the E2 Summit set to end Saturday.
Even before being asked about a possible third bid for the White House, Romney joked with reporters he recognized from his campaign that the press briefing was "a flashback. But this is the last one."
While the talk at the retreat about drafting Romney was informal, Utah GOP Chairman James Evans and some big Romney supporters have already started organizing what they say will be a national effort to get him in the race.
Romney said he sees his role now as trying to push the GOP "and our nominees toward positions that I think are the most effective for the country. I want to be one of the voices" on issues of significance.
But the former leader of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah said he recognizes he is not the only voice attempting to influence the direction of the Republican Party after his 2012 defeat to President Barack Obama.
"Nor am I the most effective voice having lost and not in office," Romney said. "You want to have influence. I’d like to continue to have influence in my party and my country. But I recognize that’s of a limited nature."
Romney said he is still considering which Republican he'll support in 2016.
"I'm going to have to wait and listen to their views," Romney said. He said he brought in candidates who represent "different viewpoints on a whole series of issues. But they're not the full list."
The GOP contenders at the retreat include New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and Wisconsin Sen. Paul Ryan, Romney's running mate in 2012.
"I don't have a choice," Romney said. "I'm not pulling in anyone's direction. I've invited a broad array here in part to let people hear these different voices and draw their own conclusions."
Participants in the three-day annual event will also hear from a Democrat weighing a presidential run, former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who said he became close to Romney when both were governors visiting war zones in the Middle East.
"I respect him a great deal," Schweitzer told reporters. He said if Romney were to run again in 2016, "he'd be kind of a giant in a field of midgets."
Advice for the hopefuls
Romney offered some advice for the GOP's 2016 hopefuls in a speech that also harshly criticized President Barack Obama's foreign policy, made earlier Friday to some 300 business and political leaders invited to the largely private retreat.
"I certainly hope our party will continue to be the party that stands for freedom, for strength, for equal opportunity, for prosperity for anyone who's willing to work for it," Romney said.
After outlining the Democratic president's shortcomings around the world, Romney urged Republicans considering a run for the White House to "be committed to real leadership in the free world. I am convinced America is not destined to decline."
One of the would-be 2016 candidates, Ryan, endorsed Romney's speech.
"What Mitt said," Ryan told reporters.
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