Romney-Bush summit meeting: What's the agenda?

Some GOP officials have speculated Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney might be getting together to hash out a way to avoid going head-to-head in the presidential primary.

Charles Dharapak/AP
Then-Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney talks with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush as they fly on his campaign plane to Miami Fla., Oct. 31, 2012. Outlining his possible rationale for a third presidential bid, Mitt Romney said Wednesday night that political leaders in both parties are failing to address the nation’s most pressing problems – climate change, poverty and education reform, among them – as he acknowledged lessons learned from his failed 2012 presidential campaign. It came hours before he was scheduled to meet privately with Bush, whose aggressive steps toward a White House bid of his own helped force Romney’s hand. Should they both run, they would compete for much of same establishment support.

Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney are having a summit meeting this week, apparently. It’ll be in Utah at an as yet-unspecified time. There’s no official word about the agenda, but the New York Times’ Jonathan Martin, who broke the story, writes that some party officials hope “the two former governors will find a way to avoid competing presidential campaigns that would split the Republican establishment next year.”

Good luck with that. Maybe they can negotiate ground-breaking superpower nuclear arms reductions at the same time.

What’s going on here? Nobody’s really saying. But it’s our guess that this is pushback from Bush’s camp against the surprising Romney talk of a possible third presidential race. Bushworld may use news of the meeting as a lever to try and get Romney to realize what they consider to be the futility of his continuing ambitions.

We say this because it seems to us the leaks revealing the confab came from Bush’s side. Stories in a number of outlets note that Bush proposed the meeting weeks ago, and that it's purpose was to thank Romney for his (past) party leadership. Why would a Romney aide describe Jeb’s intentions, especially without at least a bow to Mitt’s? They wouldn’t, probably. They certainly wouldn’t describe the meeting as “much like a recent Bush-John McCain meeting that took place at Bush’s request,” as they did in CNN’s piece on the summit.

McCain is the GOP’s presidential nominee past. Somebody is implying that Romney is, too.

Also, a CBS reporter this morning just happened to run into Bush at the boarding gate of a DC flight to Utah. Asked whether the meeting was on, Bush said, “I like to ski. I can’t comment,” according to a tweet from CBS correspondent Julianna Goldman.

If Bush wanted to keep the meeting truly low-profile he could have avoided this encounter. Two words: private jet.

OK, we’re just speculating here. We’ve been (very) wrong before. And it is true that party elders seem to be getting nervous about a Jeb-Mitt faceoff. The NYT story notes that the two men are calling the same fundraisers for support, sometimes only hours apart.

So some rich Republican could be pushing this meeting just to get some solution to a possible split in establishment support, which could lead to, say, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas winning the nomination.

But since Romney has started sounding as if he really might run again, lots of Republicans have been talking to the media to say why they think it’s a bad idea. John McCain’s daughter Meghan McCain, for instance, wrote a Washington Post opinion piece this week begging Romney to refrain from running for his family’s sake.

“When I think about what they might go through again, if their father runs a third time, I shudder,” writes McCain.

Not that Jeb Bush is lighting the GOP world aflame. Both he and Romney have actually experienced a dip in support in recent weeks, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released this week.

So maybe this meeting isn’t about one of them standing down, but both of them standing up. Combining forces. Mitt/Jeb (or Jeb/Mitt) 2016!

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