Report: Bush and Romney to meet in Utah

22 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Awkward: Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney to meet privately in Utah.

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — As he considers a third presidential campaign, Mitt Romney said Wednesday night that one of the country’s biggest challenges is climate change and that global solutions are needed to combat it. Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney, two leading Republicans considering running for the White House in 2016, are scheduled to meet in Utah this week, The New York Times reported late Wednesday, offering a potential forum for the men to seek a way to avoid a head-to-head battle in next year’s primaries.

The most notable Republican reaction to President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night did not come from official respondent Joni Ernst, the rookie senator from Red Oak, Iowa, with the camouflage high heels.Mitt Romney at the Republican National Committee’s annual winter meeting aboard the USS Midway on Friday in San Diego.(Photo: Sandy Huffaker, Getty Images) Those who follow presidential politics will notice something curious about the rapidly emerging 2016 campaign. According to the Times, which cited “two prominent party members,” the private meeting was initiated by Bush and had been scheduled before Romney surprised the political world earlier this month by saying he was considering a third run for the presidency.

As he decides whether to run for president a third time, Romney has accepted an invitation to speak at Jacksonville Universitys spring graduation in the key presidential battleground of Florida. On his Facebook page, Romney countered Obama’s speech by zeroing in on the president’s proposal to pay for $235 billion in middle-class tax breaks, as well as new spending on education and infrastructure, by raising taxes on capital gains and inherited assets for the very wealthy by $320 billion. “His tax proposal is a maze of new taxes and complexities,” Romney wrote. “The best way to lower the tax burden on all American families is straightforward: lower rates and simplify the tax code.” This reaction may seem entirely predictable—after all, Romney spent his entire 2012 presidential campaign calling for across-the-board tax cuts that independent analysts found would disproportionately benefit the top 5 percent of taxpayers.

The seeds of a high-powered clash between Romney and Bush have spooked some allies, who worry the two could split the vote and give rise to a nominee outside the party establishment. What’s striking about Romney’s reaction, though, is precisely that it is such a rehash of his 2012 stance at a time when he has been seeking to recast himself as a different sort of Republican, one far more concerned with poverty, inequality, and middle-class wage stagnation. While hitting familiar Republican points criticizing the size of the federal debt, Romney at times sounded like a Democrat, calling for President Barack Obama and other leaders in Washington to act on climate change, poverty and education. At a GOP gathering last week in San Diego, Romney lamented that, “Under President Obama, the rich have gotten richer, income inequality has gotten worse, and there are more people in poverty than ever before,” and called for Republicans to tackle the “scourge of poverty.” The GOP’s new anti-inequality platform has one problem: The party remains committed to fighting solutions that would come at the expense of the wealthiest Americans. Romney also will receive an honorary degree on April 25, the private school announced. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File) Romney didn’t address a possible campaign at the event, but he used his 30-minute speech to lay out what appeared to be a populist platform.

This weekend in Palm Springs, Calif., four other Republican hopefuls — Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker — are expected to appear at a gathering of wealthy conservatives convened by the political operation of the billionaire Koch brothers, according to Politico. He spent little time talking about poverty, the middle class or climate change in a 2012 campaign in which opponents cast him as an out-of-touch millionaire. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton has a powerful Super PAC, Priorities USA Action, in her corner and is hoping a tall pile of cash will scare off potential challengers.

But in public and private conversations in recent weeks he has focused on poverty, perhaps above all, a dramatic shift for the former private-equity executive. The talks come as both men have been making a flurry of phone calls to Republican donors and officials to sound them out and gather commitments ahead of what could be a bruising primary race.

Romney had previously acknowledged that climate change is real, noting in his 2010 book that “human activity is a contributing factor.” But he questioned the extent to which man was contributing to the warming of the planet and said throughout his 2012 campaign that America shouldn’t spend significant resources combatting the problem. Which is why a year before the Iowa caucuses, and two years before the next inauguration, the presidential wannabes are scurrying around the country, courting the biggest donors and those who “bundle” donations from friends and associates. The impact is to give fat cats more influence in the political process, and to leave candidates even more indebted to a cadre of fabulously wealthy individuals who have their own agendas. Before the speech — tickets were sold to the public — Romney spoke to a private dinner of about 130 clients of Diversify Inc., the investment firm that sponsored the event. Tyler Fagergren, a manager with the firm, said people asked Romney questions about the economy and investment but were not allowed to ask about a possible 2016 campaign.

Many of the contributors and elected officials they are courting are hoping to stave off a collision between the two that could imperil the party’s chances in a general election. Just look at what has been the first order of business for Republicans after they won full control of Congress for the first time in eight years this past fall. It’s not expanding the earned income tax credit, but rather pushing a Wall Street wish list for tweaks to weaken the Dodd-Frank financial reform law of 2010. This will likely prove to be the primary achievement of Obama’s new tax proposal, which, as he bluntly put it in Tuesday night’s speech, is targeted at “giveaways the superrich don’t need” and “lobbyists [who] have rigged the tax code with loopholes that let some corporations pay nothing while others pay full freight.” No, it’s not going anywhere in a GOP-led Congress.

Talk all you want about restoring shared prosperity, Obama is saying, but this is the kind of reform it will take to bring balance to an economy that has gotten so top-heavy and out of whack. The proposal will implicitly admonish not only Republicans but also Hillary Clinton, should her own Wall Street sympathies and upper-bracket aspirations keep her from adopting an aggressive platform to tackle inequality. Bush, who in recent years has worked in the finance industry, would be vulnerable to the attacks that so damaged his own campaign against President Obama.

These are the real stakes at play, Cannon and Obama both recognize, and they haven’t changed just because Romney and a handful of GOP presidential hopefuls have decided it’s time to show a new, more caring face.

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