Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s exit from the GOP presidential race has left one leading Utah Republican disappointed: GOP state chair James Evans.
Several months ago Evans told me Walker was his favorite, and the party chairman believed Walker had a real shot at winning the nomination and the presidency.
But now Walker is gone from the large Republican field, taking himself out after dropping to 0 percent in recent national polling.
Evans, however, is unbent.
The chairman’s real No. 1 is still in play, Evans doggedly maintains: Mitt Romney.
Yes, Evans still sees a way to the GOP nomination and, ultimately, the presidency for Utah’s adopted favorite son.
Here is how Evans sees it:
— First way to the presidency: The large Republican presidential field will continue up through December, a few will drop out, but no one will become the clear leader (the right wing’s fascination with Donald Trump will dwindle).
The GOP financial and leadership base will turn to Romney, promising money and support if the former Utah Winter Olympic leader/Massachusetts governor/2012 GOP nominee will get in the race.
Indeed a Romney re-entry would spark up the contest, re-energize the GOP establishment.
If Romney were to get in late and do well – he doesn’t have to win, but certainly be competitive – in early primary contests, that could drive most of the other candidates out and test the real strength of the remainders.
Romney goes on to win the nomination in the July convention.
— Second way to the presidency: While not readily known by the average GOP voter, the 2016 National Republican Party Convention has rules that could help a latecomer.
Even if Romney didn’t officially get in the race in December or January, when the national convention rolls around in July (one month earlier than normal), he could still have a shot.
Evans says convention rules allow a candidate who did not stand in the primaries to be officially introduced into the convention with a majority of delegate votes by only eight states.
Evans strategizes that if there are at least five candidates standing when the convention begins – then there likely won’t be enough votes for any candidate on the first round in convention balloting.
State delegations are then open to changing their votes.
And a real draft-Romney movement could take place right in the convention itself.
Now, this is the dream of any political report assigned to cover these conventions (I was one for the Deseret News since 1988).
To say that national political conventions are a show without real meaning (except maybe the nominee’s speech to the convention) is an understatement.
Long gone are the days when leading candidates fought legendary battles in convention hall back rooms over state delegate slates, with tension and real excitement throughout.
But Evans still imagines that if the 2016 national GOP convention couldn’t find a nominee on the first ballot – then with Romney striding into the hall pandemonium could break loose – along with at least eight state delegate blocs.
Many Utah Republicans could feel tingling in their toes with just that thought.
Certainly Trump is sucking all the air out of the Republican presidential race currently.
Yes, four years ago at this time Herman Cain was leading the GOP presidential field nationally. Remember Herman Cain?
And it is true that many Republicans feel that Romney was the ultimate choice because no other candidate could walk and chew gum at the same time.
If it is true that absence makes the heart grow fonder, then maybe Evans’ hopes – which seem so dim today – may gain color in the New Year.