Can Mitt Romney stop Donald Trump?
The one-time Republican nominee is trying to use whatever influence he has to blunt the Republican frontrunner. Romney will deliver a speech on Thursday in Utah, laying out his views on the "state of the 2016 presidential race," according to aides.
Romney is likely to repeat on Thursday what he and his closest allies have already indicated in a number of ways: the ex-Massachusetts governor is deeply concerned with the state of the race because Trump is winning. The former governor has already demanded Trump release his tax returns and suggested the real estate mogul is hiding potentially damaging information in having not already done so. The New York Times reported over the weekend that Romney has considered endorsing Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and has also contacted allies of Ohio Gov. John Kasich, urging him to leave the race so Republicans could consolidate around a single alternative to Kasich, likely Rubio.
Romney's former deputy campaign manager, Katie Packer Gage, is leading an independent group running ads against Trump.
Romney's top strategist in 2012, Stuart Stevens, has said he will not vote for Trump if the real estate mogul is the GOP nominee. And one of Romney's closest friends in politics, House Speaker Paul Ryan, this week blasted Trump for not condemning the KKK and David Duke.
What's unclear is what influence Romney truly has at this stage of the process. Trump has already won 11 of 15 states and accumulated a large delegate lead. The kind of voters who back Trump, particularly those without college degrees, are unlikely to be swayed by the Harvard-educated, elite Romney. It's not clear anti-Trump Republicans can get behind a single candidate with Rubio, Kasich and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz all in the race and with legitimate claims to remain and try to build their support.
Romney, according to sources, is unlikely to endorse a candidate on Thursday.
But having a major Republican figure demand the party organize against Trump could still be important.
The March 15 primaries are a key point in the campaign, a day on which Trump could win the Florida and Ohio primaries and get a huge lead in the delegates. Could Romney spur Jeb Bush to recover from his bruised feelings about Rubio finishing ahead of him in most primaries and endorse Rubio, his former protégé, before the March 15 race in the Sunshine State?
Can Romney help coordinate a sustained, multi-million dollar ad campaign to stop Trump? Does Romney have some new argument about the real estate mogul that can cause his poll numbers to dip?