"Mitt Romney decided last weekend that he would not run for president a third time in 2016. But even minutes before his Friday announcement, several of his former top aides were held in suspense, some as convinced he was in as others were adamant he was out. All week, the 2012 GOP nominee looked and sounded like a candidate. On a Sunday night conference call with advisers, Romney talked through the steps he was taking toward getting in. On a campaign-style trip to Mississippi, he stopped by a barbeque joint, gladhanding customers, before taking jabs at Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama during a speech at a state university. All the while, he and his wife Ann were praying as they came to terms with the choice to recede from the national political scene. There was no one moment or factor that changed the Republican’s mind, according to interviews with more than a dozen people who have been in touch with Romney since he announced to a group of donors early this month that he was seriously interested in a 2016 bid. It was, by all accounts, a gradual process.
A clear-eyed Romney approached the deliberations like the former Bain Capital executive he is, encouraged by the warm response he got on the campaign trail in 2014 but fully aware of the difficult path forward and the indignities that come with running for president. The return of jokes and columns about Romney putting his dog Seamus on the roof of a car during a decades-ago family vacation exasperated him, for example. In more candid moments of self-doubt, he worried that he might not wind up being the party’s best hope of beating Hillary Clinton – and thought about the stigma that would come with losing two national elections in a row. 'Today indicates a strong level of self-awareness,' said someone who has worked for Romney in a senior role. 'He did a gut check, and it just wasn’t there,' said another. 'It’s not like in 2012 where you have to run to save the country from these clowns,' a third person said, referring to the less-than-stellar GOP field four years ago. 'There are serious people in this race.' 'When you make the decision to run for president, you really have to want it with every fiber of your being,' added a fourth person, one of his closest confidantes. 'And Mitt thought it was time to let new leaders emerge from the field and carry the banner forward. It was a form of duty that he felt to his party.'" (Politico)
"There was a love fest going on inside the publicist Kari Feinstein’s Sundance Style Lounge. Like the dozens of gifting suites that popped up along Main Street during the Sundance Film Festival last week, this one was filled with freebies: leather boots, knitted hats, portable cellphone chargers and, perhaps most outlandishly, a three-night, all-expenses-paid trip to Aruba, valued at $10,000. Justine Ezarik struggled to take it all in. 'It’s always so weird: They’re like, ‘No, it’s O.K., you can keep it,’ and I’m like, ‘Are you sure?’ ' she said, eyes bright and voice bubbly as she bounced from booth to booth. Ms. Ezarik, 30, is better known as iJustine, an Internet personality and avid gamer who has more than seven million fans across YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and other social networks. (What made her famous: a 2007 video about her 300-page iPhone bill.) A tweet or hashtag from her could mean hundreds of new followers for a brand and — here’s where the love fest comes in — she’s happy to oblige. 'I love products, and I love sharing if I love something,' she said. 'Like, you can probably guarantee that it’s going to be posted, especially if I love it.' Imagine Jennifer Aniston saying that. For more than a decade, gifting suites have been a fixture at Sundance and other celebrity-filled events as a way for public relations firms and their clients to get brands in the hands of the famous. Celebrities have been known to walk away with tens of thousands of dollars of free stuff, from leather handbags to bottled water. Now these swag suites, formerly accessible to A-list Hollywood stars (and, sometimes, D-list reality show ones), actively court social media personalities and their followers. These Instagrammers, Viners, YouTubers, vloggers and bloggers appeal to brands by posting photos of their products, tagging them with the appropriate hashtags like #MooseOnTheLoose (for the Canadian clothing brand Moose Knuckles) and integrating the swag — to use a favorite word — in an 'authentic' way." (NYT)
"The 2015 Policemen's Ball, the Palm Beach Police Foundation's annual fundraiser, met a million dollar milestone, breaking its previous fund raising records. Secret Agent 007, aka James Bond, and a cast of heroes, villains and vixens recently descended on Mar-a-Lago, replete with signature Bond elements that were cleverly incorporated by event designer, Tom Mathieu, who set the scene for the gala that paid tribute to Palm Beach Police Department's men and women in blue and its civilian employees. Mary and Mark Freitas served as the Dinner Chairmen, and Annie and Michael Falk served as Honorary Chairmen, all for the second year. More than 600 supporters, friends, police officers and employees from the Palm Beach Police Department, along with Palm Beach Mayor Gail Coniglio and nearly all Palm Beach Town Council members, attended and were entertained by the popular dance band, Soul Survivor." (NYSD)