Romney Sparks New Competition Among GOP Establishment

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -

A shake-out among fiery conservatives with White House ambitions was always a sure thing. Now it appears the competition among the more establishment-minded GOP candidates for president will end up just as fierce.

With Mitt Romney’s move in the past week toward launching a third run for president, there are three high-profile Republicans from the party’s mainstream suddenly competing for the same group of elite donors and staffing talent, just as the crowded 2016 presidential primary season begins.

And that list — Romney, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — doesn’t even include a group of Midwestern governors, led by Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, who also fit the mold of accomplished, economic-minded executives driven as much by a pragmatic approach to governing as their conservative ideology.

“We’ve never seen anything remotely like it,” said Rick Wilson, a Florida-based Republican consultant who has advised presidential campaigns.

Not one of the ambitious Republicans has formally entered the race yet. But more than a dozen candidates are preparing to run.