Updated Nov. 22, 2016 4:07 p.m. ET
President-elect Donald Trump is leaning toward asking former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to be his secretary of state, according to people familiar with the deliberations.
The next U.S. president is also likely to name retired Marine Gen. James Mattis to serve as secretary of defense in his administration, and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is the leading candidate to be the next ambassador to the United Nations, the people said.
Delaying Mr. Trump’s decision about secretary of state is an internal tug of war between supporters of Mr. Romney, and those urging the selection of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. A third group is pressing the president-elect to keep searching for candidates.
The New York businessman views Mr. Romney as the prototypical choice to be the nation’s top diplomat, and a group of advisers inside the transition are pushing him to select the 2012 Republican presidential nominee. Two people said Mr. Trump is inclined to select Mr. Romney.
A Michigan native, Mr. Romney was the son of prominent auto executive and later Michigan Gov. George Romney. Before turning to politics, Mr. Romney founded Bain Capital, a private-equity firm, and rescued the financially troubled 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, during which he interacted with an array of world leaders. He was elected governor of Massachusetts that same year.
Messrs. Trump and Romney were very critical of each other during the 2016 campaign, but both men appear to be ready to put that behind them. Vice President-elect Mike Pence greeted Mr. Romney personally outside the Bedminster, N.J., golf club where Mr. Trump was interviewing prospective appointees over the weekend, a rare courtesy shown to the guests. On Sunday, Mr. Pence said the session between Mr. Trump and Mr. Romney was “a very substantive meeting.”
But another faction is still pushing for Mr. Giuliani, who was one of Mr. Trump’s earliest supporters and has openly campaigned for the job. Mr. Giuliani, after leaving the mayor’s office, created a security consulting firm that has contracts with some foreign governments, including Qatar and Colombia.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, speaking to reporters after meeting with Mr. Trump on Monday, said “there are huge advantages to Rudy Giuliani frankly, I think that, if you want someone who is going to go out and be a very tough negotiator for America and represent American interest in the way that Trump campaigned, I think that probably Rudy is a better pick and has the right temperament.”
A spokeswoman for Mr. Romney didn’t return messages seeking comment. Jason Miller, a spokesman for Mr. Trump, said “absolutely no decision has been made” on secretary of state.
Ms. Haley would be the first woman—and first minority—to join Mr. Trump’s administration.
“It was a good meeting. We talked about a multiple group of topics and it was nice meeting,” Ms. Haley told reporters.
Rob Godfrey, her deputy chief of staff, said Ms. Haley “is very encouraged about the coming administration and the new direction it will bring to Washington.”
While Mr. Trump’s initial picks for his next administration have focused exclusively on loyalists, Ms. Haley—like Mr. Romney—was a vocal opponent of the incoming president during the Republican primary.
She implicitly criticized his candidacy during her Republican response to PresidentBarack Obama’s State of the Union response and, ahead of the South Carolina primary, said Mr. Trump was “everything a governor doesn’t want in a president.”
After he won the nomination, she said she would back him in the November election against Democrat Hillary Clinton. Ms. Haley met with Mr. Trump on Thursday in New York and told reporters on Monday in South Carolina that “when the president-elect calls and asks for a meeting, I would absolutely not turn that down.”
Ms. Haley, 44, is the second Asian-American of Indian descent to serve as governor in the U.S. Before winning her first election in 2004 to the South Carolina Statehouse, she worked at FCR Corp., a North Carolina waste management and recycling company, and later joined Exotica International, her family’s clothing business.
As twice-elected governor, she has led trade missions to countries including India, Sweden and Germany.
The clearest consensus inside the transition team is for Gen. Mattis, a former war commander who has long voiced concerns about the security threat posed by Iran. He met with Mr. Trump on Saturday.
“He is the real deal,” Mr. Trump told reporters about Mr. Mattis after the meeting. “He is just a brilliant, wonderful man. What a career.”
Gen. Mattis, who retired after 43 years in the Marines and who rose to command all U.S. forces in the Middle East, would bring to the job a view of the international fight against extremism markedly different from that of the Obama administration. He has said the U.S. should pledge to put combat forces into the fight if necessary to defeat militants.
Tags: ambassador to the United Nations, Donald Trump, James Mattis, Mattis, Mike Pence, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Nikki Haley, president-elect Donald Trump, Rob Godfrey, Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, Wall Street Journal