Mitt Romney's chances for being secretary of State in a Trump administration are fading amid a deep division among President-elect Trump's team, and that is giving rise to dark horse candidate Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a foreign policy tough guy who once arm wrestled Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to insiders.
The Trump cabinet executive committee is also eyeing long-time Republican diplomat John Bolton as deputy secretary of State, though there are some who prefer him in the top job.
Two sources late Saturday said that there is an emerging "consensus package" of Rohrabacher, a long-serving California lawmaker who heads a House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee, as the secretary and Bolton as his chief deputy.
"This is percolating through the system and Dana the dark horse is emerging from the back of the pack," said one transition source. Another said, "I'm feeling like a surprise might be in order."
According to the sources, Trump advisors Stephen Bannon and Peter Thiel have spent four hours on the phone with Rohrabacher and found that he agrees with all Trump top policy agenda items. He was a supporter of Trump also. One source said that Rohrabacher may be headed to Trump Tower next week for a meeting with the President-elect.
He is a former Reagan speechwriter and expert on Afghan policy. He also has one of the most interestingly-decorated House offices and is even a California surfer.
Sources said that he was previously asked his interest in being No. 2 at State under Romney, but said that he couldn't work for a secretary who did not support Trump during the campaign.
Romney was harshly critical of Trump during the election, though he has eaten crow in two meetings since Trump was elected president-elect.
For many Trump insiders, notably campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, that's not good enough to then be rewarded with one of the administration's top jobs.
Bolton, like Romney, also has champions on the Trump executive committee. He worked for former President Reagan and both former Presidents Bush, mostly in key State and diplomatic roles, including as ambassador to the United Nations.
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org