Mitt Romney has been trading e-mails with Jeb Bush and plans to have lunch soon at the fabled Maine compound where the Bush family summers, but Romney insisted Friday that he has not yet made up his mind about whom he will support in the 2016 Republican presidential nominating contest.
In an interview Friday with Bloomberg's Mark Halperin at a Utah gathering of Republican presidential hopefuls and donors, Romney said he believes that "there are six or seven" members of the crowded Republican field who "I'd be happy to see as the nominee." One of the few top contenders not at the gathering sponsored by Romney, the Republicans' 2012 presidential nominee: Bush, who is expected to officially join the scrum on Monday, and who has spent the week on a tour of European capitals.
Romney denied that he favors Florida Senator Marco Rubio over Bush, the brother of former President George W. Bush and son of former President George H.W. Bush.
"Jeb and I get along great," said Romney, noting that the two worked together closely as governors—Bush of Florida and Romney of Massachusetts. Romney said they have been trading e-mails recently and that he plans to visit the Bush family at their Walker's Point getaway this summer.
Romney did speak warmly of Rubio, however. Other candidates he mentioned favorably: Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
"Some people count him out, but not me," Romney said of Christie, who has been struggling to resurface after a spate of negative publicity over his state's budget problems and his advisers' politically-motivated decision to manufacture a traffic jam outside a Democratic-controlled town.
"We like the comeback story," said Romney, who in 2008 became the victim of another one, when a seemingly done-for Senator John McCain came roaring back to seize the Republican nomination that Romney sought that year.
Romney, who endured intense scrutiny of his own finances during his 2008 and 2012 runs for the presidency, expressed no sympathy for the negative publicity Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, are drawing for their speaking fees and for donations to the Clinton Foundation. The Clinton finances are more worthy of suspicion, he argued, because the foundation received donations from foreign governments and can be "closely linked to her service" as secretary of state.
Romney said the fight for the Republican nomination could be prolonged but the two-time veteran of the presidential campaign trail also expressed no sympathy for those about to embark on the marathon. Running for president is a "fabulous experience," Romney said. Even for those who lose, "it leaves you more optimistic."