Mitt Romney may have waged two consecutive losing presidential campaigns. But he's still at the top of the Republican heap in New Hampshire.
A new Suffolk University/Boston Herald poll shows that when tested against a slate of big-name 2016 prospective GOP presidential candidates, likely Republican voters prefer Romney over everyone else -- by a mile.
Romney gets 24 percent of the vote when tested in a field with a dozen others, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) and former Florida governor Jeb Bush. Christie (9 percent) and Paul (8 percent) run a distant second and third.
When Romney's name is not included, Christie and Paul lead the pack with 11 percent apiece. But 32 percent -- a plurality -- say they are undecided.
The 2012 Republican presidential nominee has repeatedly said he is not going to run. But should the poll give him cause to give a third straight bid a closer look?
No. For a couple of reasons.
First, Romney's existing name recognition and popularity in the state probably explain a large part of why he does so well in the poll. He easily won the New Hampshire Republican primary for president in 2012 and was governor in neighboring Massachusetts before that. He even has a house in the Granite State.
Secondly, while Christie, Paul and others have been raising their national media profiles, New Hampshire voters are still not nearly as familiar with them. Romney has been a staple of New Hampshire politics since the lead-up to the 2008 elections.
So against a field of lesser-knowns, Romney does well. Give those lesser-knowns some time and they will almost certainly do better. Romney is at his peak, while others only have room to grow.
There's also the fact that Romney has repeatedly denied interest in running for president again.
The bottom line is this: The Romney 2016 chatter makes for interesting chatter. Just don't count on it actually, you know, happening.