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Mitt Romney has nothing but nice things to say about potential 2012 rivals Sarah Palin and Rep. Ron Paul. But when the conversation turns to this year's election, Romney says he hopes candidates backed by the grassroots Tea Party movement will step aside if they lose in Republican primaries and not split the conservative vote with third-party candidacies.
"That would hand over the country to Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, and that would be very sad indeed," he said in an interview posted Monday by the conservative Web site, Newsmax.
Despite that concern, Romney said the emergence of the populist, anti-spending movement is a positive development on the political landscape. "I'm really pleased that the silent majority is silent no longer," he said.
Romney, the former Republican governor of Massachusetts, is widely expected to make another bid for the White House in two years. He said he didn't know whether Palin, the 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate, would run for the top spot in 2012. But he said she is qualified and "has brought a great deal of energy and passion to our party."
Paul, a Texas libertarian who serves in Congress as Republican, will continue to have an influence on the party, Romney said. And "we welcome his participation...We're a big tent party."
Romney was interviewed about his new book, "No Apology: The Case for American Greatness."
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