Will he, or won’t he? That was the question many attendees had at the 2015 Desert Town Hall, presented by the H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation. The event was headlined by former Republican Presidential nominee, Mitt Romney.
“Everyone’s wondering if he’s going to say anything about running,” said Linda Carson of Palm Desert.
The Desert Town Hall marks Romney’s first major appearance since telling his supporters earlier in the month he may be ready for another run at the White House.
“It’s coincidental, throwing hat in the ring before he speaks here,” said Peter Asten of Rancho Mirage.
But during his 30-minute lecture and 30-minute Q-and-A, Romney made no official announcement of a 2016 presidential bid. He did, however, make it clear it could be on the horizon.
During a Youth Town Hall with 150 local high school students before his keynote lecture, Romney was asked by a Palm Desert High School student what he would do differently “if” he were to run again in 2016. He responded by saying he hopes it’s not “if,” but “when.”
“It’s really good for students to know what a politician goes through and maybe even behind the scenes what he has to do,” said Julio Mendez, who introduced Romney to the students as the Youth Town Hall Ambassador.
The former governor of Massachusetts didn’t agree to any press interviews and no video cameras were allowed inside the event.
It was the same procedure during another potential Republican candidate’s visit last week, when Jeb Bush made a stop in the valley to fundraise for his recently created political action committee.
The decision to nix the media, drew mixed reaction from voters.
“I think it’s a good idea, we get to be the first people to know what he talks about,” said high school student Destiny Vega, who plans to vote for the first time in 2016.
“I think media should be involved because it’s good for people to be exposed to these types of events,” Mendez said.
“I think right now it’s just, you know, getting money in the hand,” Carson said.
“It gives them time to form their platforms for when media does start to ask the hard questions,” said Nancy Miller of Palm Desert.
Hard questions Romney says the U.S. needs a strong leader to answer. During his lecture he admitted he learned a lot of lessons in 2012, and should he run again, Romney says his focus will be on the three biggest issues he feels our nation faces: security, job opportunities for the middle class and the war on poverty.
“He’s the kind of person Desert Town Hall wants to get,” said Desert Town Hall Board President Brian Harnik. “Someone who is interesting, provocative, inspirational and has a great story to tell.”