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No longer a candidate, Mitt Romney seeking a GOP kingmaker role

In this Jan. 28, 2015 file photo, former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks in Starkville, Miss.
In this Jan. 28, 2015 file photo, former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks in Starkville, Miss.
Rogelio V. Solis, Associated Press

BOSTON — A potential candidate no more, Mitt Romney is charting an aggressive course to help shape the Republican presidential field in 2016.

The GOP's 2012 presidential nominee will be a keynote speaker at the Republican Jewish Coalition's spring meeting in Las Vegas, one of several high-profile appearances he has scheduled to try and remain relevant in party affairs despite his recent decision not to launch a third presidential campaign.

"The thing that Mitt Romney has going for him is he has a microphone," said Spencer Zwick, who led the Romney campaign's massive fundraising operation and remains one of his closest advisers. "When he talks about an issue people are going to have to listen and they're going to have to respond."

Romney will be the keynote speaker at the Republican Jewish Coalition's April meeting at the request of the organization's benefactor, Sheldon Adelson.

Other confirmed speakers include former President George W. Bush, House Speaker John Boehner and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who would surely love Adelson's financial backing should he get into the GOP presidential race. Romney will speak on the first night of the gathering, which is traditionally a private event at Adelson's private residence.

"Gov. Romney is the perfect speaker for us to kick off our annual leadership conference," said Republican Jewish Coalition executive director Matt Brooks, citing Romney's "unflinching support for Israel."

"He has been proven correct on so many issues he talked about during the campaign," he said.

After a brief flirtation with a third presidential bid, Romney late last month took himself out of the running. He told supporters he expects and hopes that "one of our next generation of Republican leaders" will be the GOP's nominee.

But he has no plans to fade from presidential politics. Aides suggest he is in a unique position to shape the 2016 debate, maintaining a regular presence on the speaking circuit and in national media, speaking on issues such as foreign policy, immigration and the minimum wage.

"He'll be a very active player in helping us win the presidency," said longtime Romney aide Ron Kaufman.

Beyond the April Las Vegas appearance, Romney's schedule includes spring stops at the hometown chamber of commerce of his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, in Janesville, Wisconsin; the University of Chicago Institute of Politics; the commencement addresses at Jacksonville University, Utah Valley University and St. Anselm College in New Hampshire; and his annual Utah retreat in June, which brings together top donors and likely presidential candidates.

Romney maintains close connections to some of the most powerful Republican donors in the nation. He appears likely to lend his support to one of the younger faces in the 2016 field, although aides report he has yet to decide whether he'll make a formal endorsement or not.

"Is there such a thing as a kingmaker in the Republican Party? Mitt Romney is in a unique position to do that," Zwick said. "In some ways, you have more of an impact when you take yourself out of the running."

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