Mitt Romney isn’t running for president again. But people will still keep talking about it.



No, Mitt Romney isn't going to run for president again -- for the third time! -- in 2016.  That's according to almost every Romney source I've talked to over the past year or so.

“Mitt won’t run," one Romney insider told me today. "But that won’t stop people from talking and writing about it."

No, it won't. Witness the big headline in Politico  -- "Poll: Romney breaks away in Iowa" -- touting the results of a USA Today/Suffolk University poll showing Romney at 35 percent among potential 2016 Iowa caucus-goers and no other candidate in double digits. Or the focus on Romney leaving the door to a race cracked ever-so-slightly in an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt earlier this week; Romney said there was a "one in a million" chance he might run. (And, yes, he was quoting "Dumb and Dumber".

The reasons for Romney not run boil down to this: He doesn't want to. He feels -- as he has said publicly and privately -- that he had his chance, didn't win and now it's time for someone else.  At heart, Romney is a businessman; he makes decisions based on facts not on gut.  And he has concluded that, for whatever reason, the American public didn't want what he was selling in 2012. Romney has also been in the presidential game long enough to know that as soon as he went from unattainable to "heck, he just might do it" all of the problems he had to fight through in 2008 and 2012 -- Is he conservative enough? Is he too disconnected? Is his religion "normal"? -- would all re-appear.

None of those realities, however, will stop the never-ending "might he?" industry -- god bless it! -- from churning. Why?

1. There's a strong narrative -- particularly among Republicans -- that Romney was right about much of what he said in 2012 about President Obama and the country. From his prediction of Russia as America's number one geo-political foe to his warning about changes to insurance plans under Obamacare, many Republicans -- and even many independents -- may well feel that they didn't give Romney enough credit for his views in the heat of the last election."It is now popularly believed to be fact that Mitt was so right about so many issues," said one former high ranking Romney aide.  That sort of buyer's remorse leads to a we-missed-once-but-want-the-chance-to-get-it-right-this-time mentality that buoys Romney and his numbers.

2. The "establishment" 2016 candidates don't look great.  Chris Christie is still dealing with Bridge-gate.  Scott Walker is in a surprisingly serious re-election race. Rick Perry is dealing with an indictment. Marco Rubio is still the guy who shepherded comprehensive immigration reform to passage in the Senate. Jeb Bush doesn't seem all that interested in running. And, meanwhile, the most buzzed about candidate in the field is Rand Paul, whose views on a whole host of issues foreign and domestic scare the establishment. Enter a proven vote-getter who has been fully vetted and, per point #1, is experiencing a revival in public opinion.  (This thinking is particularly prevalent in the major donor community in the Northeast who are always more than happy to give a blind quote to a reporter floating the possibility of a Romney bid.)

3.  This is politics. So nothing is impossible. If I told you that Hillary Clinton would be the de facto nominee for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 when the 2008 race ended, eyes would have rolled. Or that Mark Sanford would be back in Congress. Or that Eric Cantor would lose a primary to someone name Dave Brat. Or a million other improbable things that have happened in just the last decade in politics. The reason this world is so incredibly compelling is that it's so incredibly unpredictable. "Ugh," said one former Romney insider when asked about another presidential bid by the former governor. "Never say never."

And so, because, in the immortal words of Lloyd Christmas "you're telling me there's a chance", we'll keep talking about it.  And talking about it.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.
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