WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, told a group of supporters on Friday that he would not seek his party’s nomination for president in 2016.
Mr. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, shared his decision on a conference call with a small group of advisers.
In a second call to a larger group of supporters, Mr. Romney said, “After putting considerable thought into making another run for president, I’ve decided it is best to give other leaders in the party the opportunity to become our next nominee.”
Mr. Romney said he believed he could win the nomination, but he expressed concern about harming the party’s chances to retake the White House. “I did not want to make it more difficult for someone else to emerge who may have a better chance of becoming the president,” he said.
He added that it was “unlikely” that he would change his mind.
Mr. Romney, who did not take questions and ended the call shortly after reading a prepared statement, said that his family had been gratified by the outpouring of support, but had decided that it was best for the Republican Party to step aside. Mr. Romney said he would have no leadership PAC and no exploratory committee.
By not pursuing a third White House bid, Mr. Romney frees up scores of donors and operatives who had been awaiting his decision, and creates space for other potential center-right candidates such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
Mr. Romney, 67, had expressed renewed interest in another presidential run to a group of donors earlier this month, roiling the nascent Republican race. Many of his loyal contributors, staff members and supporters had been reluctant to come out for one of his potential rivals until they knew Mr. Romney’s plans.
But his flirtation had also prompted a fierce backlash across Republican circles, and some of Mr. Romney’s former aides and donors have begun moving on to other candidates.
In a more than four-hour meeting last week, Mr. Romney’s top staff members and trusted advisers from 2012 relayed a sobering reality — they supported Mr. Romney and thought he would be the best president, but they did not necessarily encourage a third run.
One by one, loyal supporters talked about surveying their troops from 2012, and finding that the enthusiasm and support were just not there. Some Iowa precinct leaders were not coming back, and even in New Hampshire — where Mr. Romney had won the primary — the mood was described at best as “cautiously optimistic.” The situation with donors was also going to be an uphill climb.
Word of Mr. Romney’s decision sent waves through the Republican donor world early Friday, as Romney aides began to telegraph the news to donors and other staff members and strategists. Some donors immediately began calling representatives of other potential candidates, such as Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, to discuss offering their support.
Mr. Romney’s announcement started a day of reckoning with his would-be rivals. He is scheduled to have dinner with Mr. Christie on Friday evening, according to two people with knowledge of his schedule, suggesting that Mr. Romney may be considering throwing his support, and that of his own political operation, to Mr. Christie. The two men are friendly, and Mr. Christie, along with Mr. Bush, was a main rival of Mr. Romney for the favor of the Republican establishment.
Mr. Bush offered his own warm words for Mr. Romney in a post on Facebook on Friday morning.
Mitt is a patriot and I join many in hoping his days of serving our nation and our party are not over,” Mr. Bush wrote. “I look forward to working with him.”
At 11 on Thursday night, a blast email was sent from a mittromney.com address, alerting supporters about a conference call on Friday morning.
“Please join me for an update call tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. EST, 8:00 a.m. PST,” wrote Mr. Romney, adding the dial-in information and concluding, “All the best, Mitt.”
In an appearance at Mississippi State University on Wednesday, Mr. Romney sounded themes that could have shaped another campaign. But he also lamented the nature of the political process and offered a dose of barely veiled self-criticism, discussing some of the shortcomings of his 2012 campaign and the lessons he learned from his loss to President Obama.
Mr. Romney’s decision will almost certainly bring an end to his decade-long quest to become president. He lost in the Republican primary in 2008 before becoming his party’s standard-bearer four years later.
Friday’s conference call seemed bittersweet for the Romney family. At one point, Mr. Romney’s wife, Ann, came on the line and thanked the former aides for their steadfast support.
But luck was clearly not with Mr. Romney this time, even as he shared the news with his former staff members on his morning call. Mr. Romney’s voice fell off the line as the connection was suddenly dropped.
Only one senator asked by BuzzFeed News — Sen. Ben Cardin — said he’d definitely go.
WASHINGTON — When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint session of Congress in March, it is unclear whether everybody invited will actually show up.
Democrats have criticized House Speaker John Boehner for circumventing the administration when he invited Netanyahu to speak, and the White House has already said Obama will not meet with him when he’s here.
BuzzFeed News asked several Senate Democrats whether they planned on skipping the speech or not. Most said they either hadn’t thought about it or they hadn’t decided. But there were no hard answers in the negative. Only one senator definitively said he would go.
Sen. Tim Kaine, who serves on both the Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees and recently traveled to Israel, said it’s “too early” to decide whether he’ll attend or not.
“It is not the norm to do this right before an election and it is being widely reported in the Israeli press as the U.S. expressing some kind of a preference,” Kaine said.
Sen. Chris Murphy expressed a similar sentiment.
“I’m sick about the fact that protocol has been violated, but you know, I’m always eager to hear what he has to say,” Sen. Chris Murphy said. “It’s not something that I have thought about one way or the other.”
A Democratic aide said their office was only informed of the scheduled date on Thursday and it was unclear if “anything’s been discussed at this point by anyone in the Senate.”
Netanyahu’s arrival will come at a tense time. He’s up for re-election in mid-March and many have said they are uncomfortable having him make a political speech to Congress so close to that vote. The U.S. is also in talks with Iran over its nuclear program.
Netanyahu is slated to address Congress on March 3.
When asked whether he’d attend, Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said he’d “figure that out later.”
Sen. Chris Coons, who serves on the Foreign Relations Committee, said, “I’ll be weighing what’s the best thing to do.”
“I remain hopeful that his address would be delayed until after their election,” the Delaware Democrat told BuzzFeed News.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein declined to comment. Sen. Ed Markey referred BuzzFeed News to his press office.
Sen. Ben Cardin, a senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee, was the lone senator who said he would attend no matter what.
“I’d be more than happy to meet with opposition leaders if they want to meet with us, give them opportunities, etcetera,” Cardin told BuzzFeed News. “But if the Prime Minister of Israel addresses a joint session of Congress, I would be there.”
Speaking at the Democrat retreat in Philadelphia Wednesday night, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi warned of the effects a visit from Netanyahu could have on the Iran talks.
“In terms of invitations to speak to Congress — the Prime Minister has spoken two times. The only person who has spoken more is Winston Churchill,” Pelosi said. “One of the times, my father was in the room; Dec. 26 — the day after Christmas — 1941, right when we were going into World War II. It’s a serious, big honor that we extend. That it should be extended two weeks before an election in a country, without collaboration among the leaders of Congress, and without collaboration with the White House, is not appropriate. It is not appropriate.”
And later on Thursday, a protester ran up to the podium during a press conference for the Texas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and grabbed the microphone.
“Islam will never dominate the United States and by the grace of God, it will not dominate Texas,” she yelled.
Watch a video of the protester via the Texas Tribune:
Muslim Capitol Day participants were also met with hostility by state Rep. Molly White (R). Shewrote on Facebook Thursday that she told her staff to “ask representatives from the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws.”
White issued a statement later in the day and said she would “welcome all of my constituents who would like to come and visit our office in the Texas State Capitol.”
WASHINGTON — Thought the 2012 presidential campaign was over? Think again.
President Barack Obama didn’t have much to say about Mitt Romney’s rekindled aspirations for the White House when he delivered a flat, “No comment,” earlier this month. But apparently he couldn’t resist much longer, following reports that the former GOP candidate was weighing entering the ring in 2016 on a platform focused on lifting up the middle class and eliminating poverty.
Addressing House Democrats at their annual retreat in Philadelphia on Thursday night, Obama referred to one “former presidential candidate” who was “suddenly deeply concerned about poverty.”
“That’s great. Lets do something about it,” Obama said, according to a White House pool report.
Romney fired back on Twitter, by noting poverty levels under the Obama administration.
“Mr. Obama, wonder why my concern about poverty? The record number of poor in your term, and your record of failure to remedy,” Romney said.
Obama also said in Philadelphia that he had heard a Republican senator, who he did not name, was “suddenly shocked, shocked, that the 1 percent” was doing much better than the vast majority of Americans.
“I consider imitation the highest form of flattery,” Obama said of Republicans’ sudden embrace of populist rhetoric.
Three Republican senators considering bids for president — Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ted Cruz of Texas, and Marco Rubio of Florida — spoke about the need to address income inequality at a summit organized by the Koch Brothers on Sunday.
ISIS gives Jordan until sunset Thursday for prisoner swap
In a new audio message posted Wednesday, a person purported to be ISIS hostage and Japanese journalist Kenji Goto says that if Jordan does not bring a failed suicide bomber to the Turkish border by sunset Thursday, a Jordanian fighter pilot held by the group will be executed. ISIS had previously said it would kill both Goto and the pilot, Mu’ath al-Kasaesbeh, unless Jordan releases Sajida al-Rishawi, a woman who was put in prison for her involvement in a 2005 botched suicide attack targeting a hotel in Amman. The latest message only mentions al-Kasaesbeh’s fate, and not Goto’s.
Source: NBC News
Raul Castro demands U.S. return Guantanamo Bay before ties restored
On Wednesday, Cuban President Raúl Castro publicly issued some new demands before the two countries normalize bilateral relations. Among them: Ending the U.S. trade embargo, agreeing to “give back the territory illegally occupied by the Guantanamo naval base,” and paying Cuba hundreds of millions of dollars as “just compensation to our people for the human and economic damage that they’re suffered” from the embargo. Castro’s demands, made in a speech at a Community of Latin American and Caribbean States summit in Costa Rica, aren’t likely to be met, but the nascent U.S.-Cuba negotiations will continue.
Source: The Associated Press
Hezbollah not planning to escalate skirmish, Israel says
Israel’s defense minister announced Thursday that Lebanese militant group Hezbollah isn’t planning further action against Israel after Wednesday’s attack. Hezbollah’s missile strike on an Israeli convoy in a disputed area near the Israel-Lebanon border killed two Israeli soldiers and wounded seven. After the attack, Israel sent helicopters and fired at least 35 artillery shells into Lebanon, according to Lebanese security officials. “We received a message that from their standpoint, the incident is over, but we are, of course, prepared for any development,” Israeli defense minister Moshe Yaalon said on Army Radio. The attack area was quiet Thursday, but Israeli troops remained on high alert.
New Greek leader halts privatization plans
Greece’s new prime minister, anti-austerity leader Alexis Tsipras, on Wednesday abruptly ordered a halt to privatization plans called for under the recession-ravaged country’s international bailout. The move was a direct challenge to Greece’s European creditors, whose aid Greece needs to pay its massive public debts. Germany has warned it would not negotiate Greece’s $270 billion bailout package. The clash spooked investors, dragging down financial markets.
Malaysia declares airliner’s 2014 disappearance an accident
Malaysia’s Civil Aviation Authority on Thursday formally declared the March 2014 disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 an accident. Officials also said none of the 239 passengers and crew survived. The declaration cleared the way for relatives to receive compensation. No trace of the airliner, which was traveling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, has been found despite an international search covering 5,300 square miles in the southern Indian Ocean, where the plane was presumed to have crashed.
Source: BBC News
A new Kaiser Health Tracking Poll found that Congressional Republicans are living in a difference universe from most Americans. The poll found that 64% of Americans want to Congress to act to restore ACA subsidies if the Supreme Court rules against the health care law.
Via the Kaiser Family Foundation:
If the Supreme Court rules that financial assistance is only available in states with state-run marketplaces, nearly two-thirds of the public says that Congress should take action so that people in all states can be eligible for financial help to purchase health insurance. Majorities of Democrats and independents say they would support Congressional action while Republicans are more divided. And, although the Supreme Court’s decision would have significant implications for many people in states using the federal exchange, their views are similar to those of people living in states with their own marketplace.
A nightmare scenario for Republicans would unfold if the Supreme Court ruled the ACA subsidies unconstitutional in states that have not set up their own exchanges. Republicans are committed to killing the ACA. Their most ardent supporters want to kill the law. The problem is that nearly two-thirds of the American people want congressional Republicans to act to protect the subsidies if the Supreme Court rules them unconstitutional.
Millions of people will lose their health care if the subsidies go away. The fate of the subsidies would become a big issue in the 2016 presidential election, and the Republicans will be trapped between doing what a majority wants and what their right-wing ideological base wants. A Supreme Court ruling against the subsidies would be a disaster for the Republican Party. If Congressional Republicans refuse to act to restore, the subsidies voters will blame them for the loss of their health care.
The House has announced that they will vote to repeal the ACA next week. Only 32% of those polled in Kaiser poll want the law repealed. Congressional Republicans are completely out of touch with the majority of Americans on the issue of the ACA. If the Supreme Court rules against the subsidies, the conservative justices will be dropping a ticking time bomb into the laps of Republicans.
No matter how the Supreme Court rules, this won’t end well for the GOP.
Democratic Underground (via TPM)
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will attack former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the economy and foreign policy during a speech at Mississippi State University on Wednesday night.
According to speech excerpts obtained by NBC, Romney, who has indicated if he decides to run for president again one of the pillars of his campaign would be inequality, will ask “How can Secretary Clinton provide opportunity for all if she doesn’t know where jobs come from in the first place?”
“Short term, our economy is looking up,” Romney plans to say. “But it is a lot better for the few, and pretty darn discouraging for the many. Incomes haven’t gone up in decades.”
Romney’s last presidential campaign in 2008 suffered from repeated attacks related to Romney’s wealth and background as a CEO. One of the lowest points in his campaign came after he said that the 47 percent of the country who depend on government would not vote for him. The moment was caught on video, and circulated widely.
Romney targets Hillary Clinton as he considers presidential bid
Those attacks build on comments his team made earlier Wednesday. As Romney heads to the nation’s poorest state, his political team is fighting back against perceptions that his wealth could be a political liability if he runs for president again, arguing that Clinton is no model for modest living, either.
“It’s going to be hard for Hillary Clinton to make Mitt Romney’s wealth a fruitful line of attack, with her multi-million dollar mansions in Georgetown and Chappaqua and her jet-setting lifestyle of the rich and famous,” a Romney aide said Wednesday.
Elizabeth Jennings is not particularly having a good night.
A Soviet spy living in early 1980s Washington DC, as part of an arranged, fake marriage that has somehow become a real one, she begins the second episode of The Americans’ third season having just received a call from her husband, Philip, also a spy, also not having a particularly good night. He needs her help, even though it’s much too late to be requesting such a thing.
Their daughter, Paige, sits on the couch. Unbeknownst to the girl, Paige has become a bargaining chip in her parents’ marriage. The KGB hopes to turn the 14-year-old into a so-called “second generation illegal,” an American citizen who can infiltrate the government at levels far deeper than Philip or Elizabeth could under their assumed identities. Elizabeth believes this is the right course, the cause that could reunite mother and daughter in the tumultuous adolescent years. Philip is dead set against it, believing that if Paige, who’s been raised an American, learns the truth about her parents, her fragile emotions will explode, and who knows what the damage will be?
These are the stakes of every decision Philip and Elizabeth make. No parent wants to see their child emotionally devastated by something said parent has done. But every parent secretly hopes their child will follow in their footsteps, at least a little bit. This emotional fog hangs over every scene, every conversation, every moment of this series.
Paige turns to her mother, having learned that Elizabeth will be joining Philip for another late night. “You guys look out for each other, you and Dad.”
Elizabeth agrees, briefly, before Paige cuts her off again. “More than us,” she says, referring to her and her younger brother.
And it’s true, in some ways. Elizabeth and Philip may love their children, but they also have to keep a crucial distance. The cause, the calling, of Communism will always be there, lurking in the background, casting shadows.
A show nobody watches
Basically nobody watches The Americans. Fewer than 2 million people watched its most viewed episode in season two, and only 1.12 million tuned in for the least-viewed episode. Yes, those numbers more than double when you add in everybody who watches later on DVR and streaming sites, but even if those numbers were to triple, they would still reflect a tiny audience, in terms of the overall television viewing landscape. The series has also struggled in terms of awards nominations, largely ignored by the Emmys in favor of inferior programs like Downton Abbey and House of Cards.
This is the peril of being a great TV show in an era of so many great TV shows. Mad Men andBreaking Bad were lucky, in that they came at the tail end of an era when only a handful of networks were seriously programming good TV. Thus every season could feel like an event.
Now, you have no idea if the next exciting TV drama will be arriving on a channel you’ve never heard of (like Pivot’s upcoming Arctic Circle noir Fortitude) or as an added bonus to your Amazon Prime membership. (Have you caught up with Transparent yet?) As the overall universe of great TV shows expands, the overall universe of great TV shows that people seriously pay attention to paradoxically grows smaller. Not even the best critics of the medium have the time to watch everything anymore, and that means the noisiest shows are the ones that stand out, not quiet little potboilers like The Americans.
Essentially everybody involved in the production of the series knows this, too. At the recently completed Television Critics Association winter press tour, FX Networks president John Landgraf said he thought the show would run at least five seasons, even with its relatively anemic numbers. The network clearly loves the show and thinks it could have a long afterlife in streaming, and it clearly hopes the Emmys will catch on sooner or later.