Will former first ladies stick together?
© Getty Images

Earlier this month, 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney was trying to convince someone (anyone) to enter the 2016 race as a third-party candidate.

Even though he officially ended his search, there still may be a way for the former Massachusetts governor to play a role in this year's presidential race. Here's how Brent Budowsky, a columnist for The Hill, sees it:

ADVERTISEMENT

By supporting Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonButtigieg stands in as Pence for Harris's debate practice Senate GOP sees early Supreme Court vote as political booster shot Poll: 51 percent of voters want to abolish the electoral college MORE over Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpOmar fires back at Trump over rally remarks: 'This is my country' Pelosi: Trump hurrying to fill SCOTUS seat so he can repeal ObamaCare Trump mocks Biden appearance, mask use ahead of first debate MORE, Mitt Romney would be doing something that has become rare in American politics. He would be putting patriotism before party, while trying to save the party of Lincoln from becoming the party of Trump.

Which got me to thinking: Are there any bigger names than Romney's out there willing to endorse Clinton? Off the top, I can think of two. Handled with great care and diplomacy, there is a chance former first lady Barbara Bush and her daughter-in-law, former first lady Laura Bush, could come out swinging for (former first lady) Hillary Clinton.

In the past, Barbara Bush has all but said she thinks of Hillary's husband, former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonChelsea Clinton: Trump isn't building public confidence in a vaccine Hillary Clinton launching podcast this month GOP brushes back charges of hypocrisy in Supreme Court fight MORE, like a son. And just a few weeks ago, Laura Bush refused to deny she is leaning toward voting for Hillary. I wonder if the idea of a kindred spirit of sorts, sitting in the Oval Office, had any impact on Bush 41 and Bush 43 deciding not to attend the Republican convention this summer or endorse Trump?

I also wonder what former first lady Nancy Reagan, who recently passed away, would have done? After all, Trump has made a mockery out of The Gipper's 11th Commandment, "Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican."

Former first ladies have a long history of involvement in presidential elections. The first was Lucretia Garfield, who endorsed Theodore Roosevelt's third-party run in 1912. Then there was Edith Wilson, who refused to endorse any of Franklin Roosevelt's four terms, although Teddy Roosevelt's widow, also an Edith, surprised many when she came out for Herbert Hoover in 1932.

More recently, Mamie Eisenhower not only campaigned for Ike's vice president Richard Nixon in 1968, she was featured in a campaign commercial in 1972. And Jacqueline Kennedy? She supported then-Sen. Ted Kennedy's (D-Mass.) run against incumbent Jimmy Carter in 1980.

So the streets are littered with endorsements from first ladies. If Barbara Bush and Laura Bush were to break ranks and publicly support Hillary Clinton, daughters and granddaughters everywhere would have plenty to talk about for decades.

Like I tell my kids, "It's best to be an American first and a card-carrying partisan second." I hope Mitt Romney and the Bush first ladies take my message to heart.

Freidenrich writes from Laguna Beach, Calif. His letters and commentaries have run in the New York Times, Washington Post, Washington Times, Christian Science Monitor, Sacramento Bee, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register and many other newspapers. He can be reached on Twitter @freidomreport.