Romney readies for White House run if McCain fails

ST. PAUL, Minn. - September 3, 2008 But even if his former GOP rival John McCain wins the presidency in November, Romney says he won't emulate his father by taking a Cabinet position - apparently because he still has his eye on the presidency.

"I saw my dad serve in the Cabinet, and I learned something from that experience," the former Massachusetts governor said Tuesday. "He felt he was kind of soldiered (manhandled) by the young folks in the White House, and then there's the big bureaucracy that you try and move. It's hard to do that. I just don't have any interest in a Cabinet position."

Since ending his own bid for the Republican presidential nomination in February, Romney has done everything asked of him to advance McCain's candidacy.

He played attack dog in media interviews arranged by the McCain staff, enduring hoots and hollers last week as he visited news sets on the floor of the Democratic National Convention in Denver. He recommended one of his best advisers, former eBay chief executive Meg Whitman, to McCain. And he and his team raised more than $20 million for his once cash-strapped rival, all of which prompted McCain's top advisers to chat up the possibility that Romney might become the Arizona senator's running mate.

Yet last Thursday, as Romney traveled the California coast urging supporters to give McCain's campaign more money, McCain offered the vice presidential nomination to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. McCain told Romney his decision Friday, the day Palin's selection was announced.

In one sense, it was a crushing blow. But in another, it was liberating.

While Romney wished McCain and Palin well, his friends and advisers say if they fail in the general election, Romney is primed - even anxious - to mount a second bid for the White House.

He left himself some wiggle room Tuesday, saying, "That's not in my mind; that's not in my plans."

Now, Romney can again concentrate on the presidency, even as he buffs a veneer of support for the McCain-Palin ticket with his speech to the Republican National Convention on Wednesday.

Indeed, Romney's stumping for McCain in recent months has also served to maintain his visibility and future political viability.

Romney knew it would be rude to be a sore loser. So, even though he thought he had endorsed McCain in the Feb. 7 speech that ended his own presidential bid, Romney submitted to cameras and questions a week later to reiterate that support for the rival he once said lacked the economics background to be president.

Romney also established the Free and Strong America PAC, a political action committee dedicated to helping not only McCain but also like-minded congressional and state political candidates. But the PAC also gives Romney a vehicle to raise money and travel the country, promoting himself as much as the candidates he wants to endorse.

He used a similar committee, and his 2006 chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association, to build the network of advisers, contributors and supporters he relied on during his presidential campaign. The Free and Strong America PAC also allows gives Romney a headquarters where he can remain in contact with his inner circle of advisers.

Should McCain fail, it's no stretch to see Romney hitting the trail again on Nov. 5 in pursuit of the job he wanted from the start.

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