Maria Dryfhout /

Mitt Romney announced Friday he would not seek the presidency a third consecutive time. However, reporting by Mark Halperin reveals that the former GOP nominee sees Jeb Bush as weak and has dirt on Chris Christie yet to be exposed.

Although Romney has spoken favorably of the two potential front-runners in public, his private thoughts are another matter:

But those familiar with Romney’s thinking as he’s been contemplating a run and over the years say that he has held a jaundiced view of the former Florida governor dating all the way back to his handling of the Terri Schiavo case, and has come to see Bush as a non-entity in the 2016 nomination contest. Romney is said to see Bush as a small-time businessman whose financial transactions would nonetheless be fodder for the Democrats and as terminally weighed down with voters across the board based on his family name. Romney also doesn’t think much of Bush’s political skills (a view mocked by Bush’s camp, who say Romney is nowhere near Bush’s league as a campaigner). Romney also considers Bush the national Republican figure who was the least helpful to him during his last run for the White House, a position that has darkened Ann Romney’s view of Bush as well.

Romney and Christie became friends in the last cycle, but Romney nevertheless has dismissed his pal as a non-factor. Thanks to the 2012 veep vetting process, Romney became intimately familiar with some of the less publicized controversies from the New Jersey governor’s past, and believes that several of those flaps would mushroom so broadly that Christie soon would be eliminated from consideration by voters and donors.

All of that depends on how much stock you put in “those familiar with Romney’s thinking.” One anonymous source and former adviser to Romney tells Reuters that Jeb Bush would make “a perfectly credible nominee.” Regardless, Romney seems to have concluded that it is not worth enduring another vicious primary fight, and, according to those who claim to know him well, he thinks the Republicans’ best chance against the Democrats and Hillary Clinton is to run a fresh-faced candidate (i.e. not Bush).

Conjecture alert: If the Republicans do nominate someone fresh, new and perhaps more conservative, then Romney may be plucked as a candidate for VP. He represents the establishment, can tap big donors and might be seen as a veteran guiding hand to a younger nominee.

— Posted by Peter Z. Scheer

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