Sources familiar with President-elect Donald Trump's transition team have indicated that former Republican Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts is no longer the frontrunner for Secretary of State. Instead, Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California is purportedly emerging as a dark horse candidate.
On Dec. 3, anonymous Trump transition sources signaled that Rohrabacher and former U.N. ambassador John Bolton are being considered as a package deal, the Washington Examiner reports.
"This is percolating through the system and Dana the dark horse is emerging from the back of the pack," one source said. "I'm feeling like a surprise might be in order."
Trump has indicated that he has narrowed his search for secretary of state to four picks. On Dec. 4, Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway stated that the president-elect would be interviewing more candidates for the job.
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"He continues to talk to different people," Conway told CNN. "I think you've all seen the list of four that already existed. This week we'll have additional interviews with other candidates for secretary of state and other cabinet positions and deputy cabinet positions as well."
Vice President-elect Mike Pence has named Bolton, Romney, former Republican Mayor Rudy Giuliani of New York, former Gen. David Petraeus, and Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee as the top contenders for the cabinet position.
Former Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman, who had served as the U.S. ambassador to China during the President Barack Obama's first term, is also purportedly in consideration.
Romney, a former GOP nominee who had been scathingly critical of Trump during the Republican primary, has been considered a top contender for the job. The former governor's candidacy has been vocally resisted by Conway and other Trump allies, including former Republican Rep. Newt Gingrich of Georgia.
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On Dec. 4, Gingrich signaled that he had come around to Romney's potential nomination during an interview with CBS News.
"I'm very comfortable if… President-elect (Trump) says I want Romney, I'm for Romney," Gingrich said. "If he concludes that Romney could do the job best, then I'm for Romney."
The anonymous Trump transition sources stated that Romney's divisiveness among the Trump inner circle has dampened his prospects to be nominated secretary of state. They allege that Rohrabacher is emerging as a serious candidate, with Bolton being touted as deputy secretary of state.
The sources also alleged that Rohrabacher has been interviewed by Trump advisors Stephen Bannon and Peter Thiel, who were reportedly pleased by how much the California lawmaker agreed with Trump's policy priorities.
Rohrabacher was a speechwriter for former President Ronald Reagan and is considered a policy expert on Afghanistan. Allegedly, when Trump aides asked the California congressman if he would like to serve as Romney deputy, Rohrabacher responded that he would refuse to work for someone who had previously opposed Trump.