American democracy is rare, fragile, and in need of protection, Mitt Romney told Republican donors on Monday, amid fresh speculation of yet another presidential run. Five people who attended the private fundraiser for GOP Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming—herself a subject of similar speculation—organized by Republican bigwigs Bobbie and Bill Kilberg at the Hilton hotel in McLean, Va., gave an account of the speech to CBS News. "We are really the only significant experiment in democracy, and preserving liberal democracy is an extraordinary challenge," said the Utah senator and former Massachusetts governor, who was the introductory speaker, according to the outlet.
He said he has a chart on the wall of his Senate office that shows the progress of civilizations over the past four millennia. Autocracy is the chart's "default setting," said the 2012 Republican presidential nominee. He said Russian President Vladimir Putin is following the authoritarian playbook "rehearsed time and time again, over the many thousands of years of world history." America has only avoided "falling in with the same kind of authoritarian leader" due to "the strengths of our institutions, the rule of law, our courts, Congress, and so forth," he added. "People of character and courage have stood up for right at times when others want to look away. Such a person is Liz Cheney."
As CNN reports, "Cheney is emerging as the anti-Trump champion, and plenty of Republicans are glad to see it." Bill Kilberg said the event, which raised more than $526,000 for the congresswoman, went "exceedingly well," with Romney receiving a standing ovation for his remarks on the fragility of American democracy, per CBS. Republicans unhappy with the direction of the party "are really hungry for a sensible, rational alternative in our political dialogue," he said. "They saw two sensible, intelligent, rational conservatives, and they were excited." Cheney similarly noted that "if someone doesn't have respect for the rule of law and the democratic system, then it's all for naught," Bobbie Kilberg added. (Read more Mitt Romney stories.)