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“If America does not provide stability, there are only two other possibilities,” Mr. Bolton wrote recently in Townhall Magazine. “Either no one will provide it, and the ensuing vacuum will threaten international peace and prosperity, or others will step into the void. The United States can be certain they will not be looking out for America’s best interests, but for their own.”

The interventionist tone of such assertions seems to make some of Mr. Romney’s foreign policy advisers uncomfortable.

Several told The Washington Times in recent weeks that Mr. Romney believes the U.S. must take aggressive steps to “defend” its values abroad, but recoiled when asked whether Mr. Romney believes in “projecting” such values abroad.

“It’s a good question,” one foreign policy aide said.

If Mr. Romney does pick his foreign policy Cabinet from the campaign’s current pool of advisers, Mr. Bolton probably won’t make the cut, Mr. Gelb said.

“My guess is that he couldn’t get confirmed to be secretary of state or anything like that, just based on past experience,” he said. “Romney might take him on as some kind of special adviser in the White House, but I don’t think he’ll appoint him to anything.”

Jockeying for position

Recent weeks, meanwhile, have brought what another campaign insider described as an attempt by some advisers to jockey for position - if not to gain influence over Mr. Romney’s message, then to get their names atop the list of possible Cabinet nominees.

“Clearly there are some people politicking at the top,” the insider said.

Among the campaign’s key advisers are former CIA Director Michael V. Hayden; Mitchell Reiss, who once served as director of policy planning at the State Department; and Eliot Cohen, who heads the Strategic Studies Program at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies and penned the foreword to the Romney campaign’s 43-page foreign policy white paper last fall.

Also being mentioned is Robert Kagan, a pre-eminent conservative foreign policy theorist who - in an ironic twist - is married to Victoria Nuland, the chief spokeswoman for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

But there are no guarantees any of them will end up in a National Security Council, U.N. ambassador or top State Department posting.

“My experience goes back to an awful lot of presidential campaigns, and generally, you just don’t know these things,” said Richard Williamson, who served key positions in the George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush administrations as well as the Reagan administration. He is one of the few Romney advisers willing to speak openly without having his remarks vetted by the campaign’s full-time staff.

“At the end of June four years ago,” Mr. Williamson queried, “was there anyone who would have thought Hillary Clinton would be secretary of state for Barack Obama?”

Others say that once the summer convention season has passed and Mr. Romney’s lock on the nomination is ratified, he may be inclined to swing toward the center with his Cabinet position shortlists.

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