Mitt Romney shook up the 2016 GOP field on Friday with his announcement that he won’t be seeking the presidency for a third time.
In a call with supporters early on Friday, the 2012 nominee said it’s time to “give other leaders in the party the opportunity to become our next nominee.”
Potential GOP candidates were respectful in their responses to the former Massachusetts governor’s decision, which came after a surprising three week flirtation with another run.
But the contenders also know that the early exit of a formidable fundraiser with a deep political network bolsters their chances of winning the party’s nomination.
Republican strategists say Bush is the biggest beneficiary — the two appeared to be gearing up for a heavyweight fight for donors, top-level political operatives and the right to claim the party’s establishment mantle.
GOP strategists say that after Bush, Romney’s exit buoys the potential candidacies of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and Sen. Marco Rubio the most.
GOP strategists say Walker falls into the party’s sweet spot – they believe he can pull support from both the establishment and the Tea Party wing as a candidate that can “drive in both lanes,” as Republican consultant Ford O’Connell put it.