Mitt Romney Said To Be Top Contender For Secretary Of State

Mitt Romney and Donald Trump became bitter rivals for the soul of the GOP in 2016, but Romney appears to be at the top of Trump's list for the nation's top diplomat.

Donald Trump Mitt Romney

It’s likely that it won’t be until some point after the Thanksgiving holiday that we hear about this one given that Mitt Romney is said to be spending the time mulling the decision over with family and friends while Trump is spending the holiday weekend at his Florida home in Palm Springs, but The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Mitt Romney is now at the top of the list to be President-Elect Trump’s Secretary Of State:

President-elect Donald Trump is leaning toward asking former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to be his secretary of state, according to people familiar with the deliberations.


Delaying Mr. Trump’s decision about secretary of state is an internal tug of war between supporters of Mr. Romney, and those urging the selection of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. A third group is pressing the president-elect to keep searching for candidates.

The New York businessman views Mr. Romney as the prototypical choice to be the nation’s top diplomat, and a group of advisers inside the transition are pushing him to select the 2012 Republican presidential nominee. Two people said Mr. Trump is inclined to select Mr. Romney.

A Michigan native, Mr. Romney was the son of prominent auto executive and later Michigan Gov. George Romney. Before turning to politics, Mr. Romney founded Bain Capital, a private-equity firm, and rescued the financially troubled 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, during which he interacted with an array of world leaders. He was elected governor of Massachusetts that same year.

Messrs. Trump and Romney were very critical of each other during the 2016 campaign, but both men appear to be ready to put that behind them. Vice President-elect Mike Pence greeted Mr. Romney personally outside the Bedminster, N.J., golf club where Mr. Trump was interviewing prospective appointees over the weekend. On Sunday, Mr. Pence said the session between Mr. Trump and Mr. Romney was “a very substantive meeting.”

But another faction is still pushing for Mr. Giuliani, who was one of Mr. Trump’s earliest supporters and has openly campaigned for the job. Mr. Giuliani, after leaving the mayor’s office, created a security consulting firm that has contracts with some foreign governments, including Qatar and Colombia.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, speaking to reporters after meeting with Mr. Trump on Monday, said “there are huge advantages to Rudy Giuliani frankly, I think that, if you want someone who is going to go out and be a very tough negotiator for America and represent American interest in the way that Trump campaigned, I think that probably Rudy is a better pick and has the right temperament.”

A spokeswoman for Mr. Romney didn’t return messages seeking comment. Jason Miller, a spokesman for Mr. Trump, said “absolutely no decision has been made” on secretary of state.

Romney’s named first emerged on the Secretary of State list late last week when it was announced that he would be traveling to meet with Trump at a New Jersey golf resort that Trump owns and has often used as a weekend retreat from Manhattan. That meeting took place on Saturday and, outside of the obligatory photo op of the two men outside the home where Trump was staying, there haven’t been any details about the substance of the talks between Romney and Trump. One imagines, though, that there had to be at least some discussion about what became a bitter rivalry between the two men that developed between the two men over the course of the 2016 campaign and how they could possibly work together with that kind of history. In many respects, this rivalry was even more intense than that between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton at the conclusion at the 2008 campaign. Additionally, while I continue to have my doubts about Trump, it strikes me that Romney has a sense of duty to his country that would allow him to put past slights behind him and serve his country if he was asked to do so, especially since he may well be concerned about who else Trump would be inclined to name if he didn’t accept the position.

Possible alternative Secretary of State candidates for Trump have included, according to reports, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, retired General David Petraeus, and former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton .As I said when Romney’s name first surfaced last week and, of the four possibilities that have been suggested to date, he and Petraeus seem like they would be the best selections we could expect from Trump at this point. Giuliani seems to clearly be ill-suited to the role of nation’s top diplomat and has seemingly disqualified himself from being selected due to his open lobbying of Trump in the media and apparent leaking of internal discussion among the transition team. Bolton, on the other hand, was a name mentioned immediately after Trump was elected but who appears to have been passed over as the President-Elect has narrowed down his decision making process. Finally Petraeus clearly has the experience but his guilty plea on leaking classified information could prove to be a stumbling block in the nomination process notwithstanding his record. No doubt, there are people on the right with more diplomatic experience than Trump, but many of those people not only refused to endorse Trump in the General Election but openly stated that they wouldn’t be voting for him at all. That may be a bridge too far even for a Trump who seems to be using the search for a Secretary of State to show that he can reach across divides and put behind grudges. That seemingly leaves Romney standing alone, as unlikely as it sounds.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Tony W says:

    As Doug says – we could do worse. Much worse

  2. Pch101 says:

    I’m pleased to hear that one of the least horrible choices is a serious contender.

    But I doubt that he’ll be great. Who knows what he really thinks, but his past foreign policy statements have included a fair amount of bluster, such as his position on Cuba. (The guy seems to think that the sort of aggressiveness that has failed miserably for five decades is a new and innovative idea that he came up with himself.)

    I’m sure that he has a terrific handshake and all that. But while thumping ones chest about American moral superiority is a crowdpleaser Stateside, it is not particularly effective abroad. Unlike doing private equity deals as he did at Bain, you can’t just boot out or clamp down on the other guy’s management team and call all of the shots when one is conducting foreign policy.

  3. grumpy realist says:

    @Pch101: Mitt Romney at least understands that if you’re negotiating, you’ve got to make sure that the other side shows up at the table and gets something.

    I also believe he’s intelligent enough to realize that bolting from the Iranian treaty isn’t going to automatically mean we get a do-over with better terms for the US. It just means that China and Russia (plus possibly France) shrug their shoulders and go ahead with their own arrangements with Iran, bye-bye sanctions.

    We don’t have the power we think we have, and with the demise of the TPP we’ll have even less in Asia. Trump’s veto has just handed over a huge portion of the world to China since we’ve just shown we won’t keep our promises to countries like Korea and Japan.

  4. SenyorDave says:

    By far the best of the lot. Its going to be tough, because Trump himself seems to think he’ll roll over the rest of the world leaders like he does US politicians. Other world leaders act in their own self interest, and he’ll find that most world leaders are pretty smart people, and obviously ten times better informed and well read.

  5. Jc says:

    So Pence to run things domestically and Mitt to handle affairs abroad and Trump to do as he pleases and run his businesses. Sounds like a plan.

  6. Mr. Prosser says:

    From Daniel Larison, whose opinion I respect, “Unless Romney completely reinvented himself once again, his foreign policy views would be just as bad as Bolton’s or Giuliani’s, and I have a hard time believing that a Romney-led State Department would pursue improved ties with Russia. Romney would bring with him everything that was and is wrong with conventional Republican foreign policy, and he would presumably be an advocate for all of the confrontational policies that he supported during his last presidential campaign.”

  7. Pch101 says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Mitt Romney at least understands that if you’re negotiating, you’ve got to make sure that the other side shows up at the table and gets something.

    I’m not so sure about that. For example, calling the Castros name doesn’t gain leverage for the US or give the Cubans any reason to cut a better deal than they may be otherwise willing to cut. That’s the sort of policy that simply serves to entertain the folks back home.

    Such a position also wrongly implies that the only alternative to bluster is to roll over, when that isn’t the case. Opening up Cuban markets ultimately weakens the regime as did perestroika with the Soviets, while reducing the odds that the Russians will be able to exploit Cuba’s weak economy and its need for oil.

  8. Gustopher says:

    Four years of traveling the world, meeting foreign leaders, and apologizing for whatever offensive thing Trump said that week… I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, not even Romney.

  9. Joe says:

    Where is this back drop they keep showing in this picture? I thought Trump was in his Manhattan tower? Did he build a White House back drop in some conference room? (“Here, Governor Romney, step out of my dark, marble and gold appointed conference room and on to this stage set for a moment.”)

  10. C. Clavin says:

    Is there a bigger whore, in the world today, than Mitt Romney?

  11. Argon says:

    I’m sure relations with Cuba will proceed. They need hotels.

  12. C. Clavin says:

    Amazing…just three days after Trump and his daughter talked to Argentinian President Mauricio Macri, their long held-up project for a Trump tower in Buenos Aires has suddenly gotten the go-ahead.
    I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.
    I hope all the people, like Doug and James, who refused to vote for Clinton are f’ing happy. Sure, it might not have mattered in their states…but people just like them, in Ohio and Penn. and Michigan, helped elect this corrupt mother-f’er.

  13. Guarneri says:

    @C. Clavin:


  14. Gustopher says:

    @C. Clavin: I believe both Doug and James did vote for Clinton in the end. Either that or I have had some kind of break with reality — but I like it here better.

  15. Terrye Cravens says:

    This has been such a strange election. Romney called Trump a fraud and a phony…and I think he meant it. And Trump also called Russia our greatest geopolitical foe as well. I doubt if Trump or his boyfriend Vladimir liked that very much.

    It would not be easy for Romney, but I think if duty called, he would probably take the job.

  16. rachel says:

    @C. Clavin: Doug and James did vote for Clinton. Weren’t you paying attention to the wailing, breast-beating and gnashing of teeth they did over having to make the only sane choice?

  17. dxq says:

    I was born in the early 50’s, spent 8 years in the Air Force, and had the chance to raise two great kids and enjoy a prosperous America before the right wing tentacles grabbed two thirds of our government. I’ve watched this happen in my lifetime as have many of you. Please take a few minutes and grab a fresh cup of coffee (or tea), sit back and review the timeline I’ve put together. Yes, it is lengthy, but our American government wasn’t infiltrated over night. It was a calculated effort. This essay explains not only what happened, but chronicles the pre-determined sequence of events that allowed it to happen.

    America’s Conservative Road to Destruction – Our Last Chance

  18. stonetools says:

    So the best case scenario is that Trump chooses for Secretary of State Romney, who has minimal competence in the international affairs (remember his bumbling 2012 London visit) over a blithering, bad tempered buffoon like Giuliani? Wow.

  19. stonetools says:

    Now the media is reporting that Trump wants Romney to publicly apologize. Why stop there? Why not have Romney kneel and kiss his feet in a televised ceremony? Let’s go the full Caligula!

  20. Pch101 says:


    Brown shirt and jackboot sales are going to skyrocket.

  21. Pylon says: