Republican donors could finally exhale Friday, as onetime GOP nominee Mitt Romney told supporters he wouldn’t run for president in 2016, resolving a dilemma for fundraisers who gravitate toward the party’s so-called establishment wing.
The decision boosts the money-raising prospects for other pro-business Republicans weighing a presidential campaign, primarily former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, donors said.
When Romney told supporters earlier this month that he was considering joining the growing group of Republicans vying for their party’s nomination having previously expressed no interest in the race, fundraisers who backed him in 2012 were presented with a difficult decision. Many of those donors had also previously supported Bush’s brother and father in their presidential campaigns.
“It would be such a tough thing to do to tell either one of them ’no,’ ” said Barry Wynn, a top fundraiser for Romney in 2012 and for former President George W. Bush. “I don’t know what I would have done. This would have been a very difficult decision to make.”
Wynn said he now plans to throw his support behind Mr. Bush.
His decision echoes the choice many donors are making in the wake of Friday’s news. Dirk van Dongen, who raised nearly $ 1.5 million for Romney’s campaign in 2012, said the Republican fundraisers he had spoken with in recent weeks were conflicted over backing Romney or Bush. “Some of them said, ‘Hey, I’d be with Jeb Bush except for the fact that I need to know what Mitt Romney is going to do.’ “
Following Friday’s announcement, van Dongen said, “presumably those people will now sign onto the Bush initiative.”
“It simplifies the calculation,” added van Dongen, who said he committed to back Mr. Bush even before Romney said he was considering a bid.
Fundraisers said Bush stands to benefit the most from Romney’s departure from the field, but many also pointed to the brightened prospects for Christie, who would also seek support from donors in the party’s “establishment” wing.