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Mitt Romney picks a side (sort of)

To understand why the #NeverTrump campaign is coming up short, look no further than Mitt Romney's non-endorsement endorsement of Ted Cruz.
Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign rally on Nov. 3, 2014, in Anchorage Ala. (Ted S. Warren/AP)
Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign rally on Nov. 3, 2014, in Anchorage Ala.

Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, announced Friday afternoon that he will vote for Sen. Ted Cruz in the Utah caucus next Tuesday. In a statement posted on Facebook, Romney wrote that his decision was based on the fact that Cruz is the only candidate who could defeat the "Trumpism" movement.

As Romney put it, "Today, there is a contest between Trumpism and Republicanism. Through the calculated statements of its leader, Trumpism has become associated with racism, misogyny, bigotry, xenophobia, vulgarity and, most recently, threats and violence. I am repulsed by each and every one of these."
So, has Romney endorsed Cruz? No. In fact, Team Romney was quite explicit when telling news organizations that the former governor has not yet endorsed anyone.
But Romney at least believes Cruz would make a good president? No. In fact, Romney's statement on Friday said literally nothing positive about the candidate Romney will vote for tomorrow.
But Romney at least wants Republicans to nominate the senator he's voting for in the nominating contest? No. In fact, Romney would only say that he wants an "open convention," which means GOP voters should cast ballots strategically in order to deny Donald Trump the nomination.
And this, in a nutshell, explains why the #NeverTrump campaign has struggled so badly.
Just over the last couple of weeks, Romney has recorded robocalls for Marco Rubio; he's hit the campaign trail in Ohio to appear alongside John Kasich; and he's announced his caucus vote for Cruz. In each instance, Romney and his team have made it abundantly clear that the failed candidate likes this year's anti-Trump candidates, but only to the extent that they serve as a means to an electoral end. None of them enjoys Romney's full, proper backing.
In theory, this should be an incredibly straightforward exercise: choose a candidate; announce your support for that candidate; take steps to help that candidate do well; and encourage others to do the same. For Republicans, there are only three candidates left, one of whom party leaders consider wholly unacceptable. This isn't rocket science.
And yet, there was Romney's non-endorsement endorsement of Ted Cruz, with nary a kind word about the candidate who's earned Romney's temporary backing -- which will likely evaporate when their marriage of convenience ends.
Cruz is likely to fare very well in Utah anyway, but take a wild guess how many Republican voters will be inspired by a message of grudging, fleeting tolerance. My suspicion is it's a pretty small number.
As for why Romney and others like him prefer half measures to genuine support, they've offered no real explanation. Under the circumstances, though, it's hard not to get the impression that these GOP leaders believe convention chaos will strengthen their hand and open the door to nominating someone who didn't even seek the presidency in 2016.