An early morning skeet-shooting excursion with Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin. A golf game with Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. A chance to mingle over breakfast with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Those are just a few of the offerings available to the powerful who donated to 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney at a three-day gathering that the former Massachusetts governor is hosting next week in Park City, Utah.
Donors and former aides say Romney is not looking to take sides, or play kingmaker, for the potential Republican presidential candidates, but rather to connect all of the contenders with the expansive network of donors that propelled him to the Republican nomination, while letting his donors evaluate who – if anyone – they will back in the next round.
(For good measure, they can also get their fill of Democrats, among them a potential Democratic contender in 2016, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, outgoing Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and President Obama’s longtime strategist, David Axelrod.)
Next week’s gathering in Park City, a favorite spot of the family after Romney oversaw the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, comes as the Romneys are once again reentering the public eye. Romney told the Wall Street Journal in an interview published Thursday that he wanted to bring together the members of his 2012 finance team for the “Experts & Enthusiasts” gathering to “update our thinking about where the world is headed and what the national agenda ought to be.”
The conference is being sponsored by Solamere Capital, the investment firm co-founded by his Romney’s son Tagg and his campaign finance chairman, Spencer Zwick.
Romney, who has rejoined Boston-based Solamere as the chairman of its executive committee, has emphasized that he does not intend to run for office again or try to be the standard bearer for the Republican Party — quipping to Fox News during his first post-campaign interview that “as the guy who lost the election, I’m not in a position to tell everybody else how to win.”
At the same time, he has not shied away from expressing disappointment in the current administration. During that March interview with Chris Wallace, Romney referred to President Obama as “Nero"—the Roman emperor who, as the expression goes, “fiddled” while Rome burned.
In his new interview with the Wall Street Journal’s Neil King Jr., Romney said he was disappointed by “the lack of any clear White House agenda” during the first 100 days of Obama’s second term.
His wife, Ann Romney, who was sometimes more blunt than her husband during the 2012 campaign, told CBS News in her first solo interview this week that the recent scandals in Washington had breached the trust between Americans and their government.
“We have to believe they are doing right for us,” she said on “CBS This Morning.” “Where do we turn to know what’s really true?”
Though some of Romney’s aides say he is unlikely to take sides in the 2016 Republican primary, the Romneys clearly feel a strong connection with Ryan, who got to know many of the Romney financiers as he helped raise money for the campaign last fall as the vice presidential nominee. Some of Romney’s supporters also remain convinced that Christie’s decision to appear with Obama and praise his performance after Superstorm Sandy hurt Romney at the polls in November.
Ann Romney told CBS that there were no hard feelings toward Christie -- “It’s all good” -- and called him a “great guy,” but she also indicated warm feelings toward the Wisconsin congressman.
“Mitt and I are partial to Paul Ryan, but we don’t even know if he’s going to run,” she said.
Some Romney donors will get a chance to take Ryan’s measure in this new phase — and assess his shooting skills — next week, so long as they’re not busy with Paul, Christie or Hickenlooper at the other “enthusiast” events.