BEDMINSTER, N.J. (Reuters) – President-elect Donald Trump and 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney set aside their long-simmering rivalry on Saturday and had talks likely to feed speculation that Romney could be a candidate to be Trump’s secretary of state.
Trump and Romney emerged from their meeting after an hour and 20 minutes. Trump told reporters their talks “went great,” and Romney said he and Trump “had a far-reaching conversation with regards to the various theaters in the world.”
“We Discussed those areas, and exchanged our views on those topics — a very thorough and in-depth discussion in the time we had. And I appreciate the chance to speak with the president-elect and I look forward to the coming administration and the things that it’s going to be doing,” Romney said.
Romney, who was a leader of the establishment Republican “never Trump” movement that tried to block Trump from becoming the party’s nominee, was first in a long list of people Trump was meeting on Saturday and Sunday as he seeks to fill out his Cabinet and gather advice ahead of his Jan. 20 move to the White House.
The president-elect also met on Saturday with retired Marine General James Mattis, considered a contender for defense secretary.
“A great man,” Trump said of Mattis as they posed for pictures in front of the clubhouse at Trump National golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, where Trump has a weekend home.
Meetings were also held with Michelle Rhee, the former Washington, D.C. public schools chancellor and a possible education secretary, and Betsy DeVos, a former head of the Michigan Republican Party who is also a candidate for education secretary.
On Sunday, Trump is to sit down with Wilbur Ross, a potential commerce secretary who made billions by betting on bankruptcies and distressed assets, and business executive David McCormick, head of investment firm Bridgewater Associates, as well as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who was recently demoted in his role on Trump’s transition team.
Romney had opposed Trump’s march to the Republican presidential nomination. In a speech in March, he said Trump would be dangerous as president, with policies that could touch off a recession.
Romney had other criticisms of Trump, as well. “I’m afraid that when it comes to foreign policy he is very, very not smart,” he said.
Trump had denounced Romney as a “choke artist” for losing the 2012 election to President Barack Obama.
But with Trump now president-in-waiting, Romney’s appearance at Trump National Bedminster on an unseasonably warm November day was symbolic of hard-won party unity.
“Mr. President-elect, how are you sir?” Romney said on arrival.
Whether Romney will join the Trump administration is unclear. Romney, a more mainstream Republican, would serve alongside more hawkish Trump appointees named on Friday: Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama as attorney general, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn as national security adviser and Representative Mike Pompeo as CIA director.
Trump has been considering former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a close adviser, for secretary of state, as well as former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton and Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee. Trump is to meet Giuliani on Sunday.
Transition officials said Trump’s meeting with Romney was supposed to be a general discussion about the incoming administration.
A Romney confidant said of Romney’s secretary of state prospects: “Could it happen? I suppose. But it’s unlikely.”
Instead, the source said the meeting gives “the good housekeeping seal of approval to Republicans who don’t know if they should help Trump or not.”
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by David Gregorio and Leslie Adler)
IMAGE: U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence greet former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (L) as he arrives for their meeting at the the main clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, U.S., November 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar