9/30/2014: This post has been updated.
When Mitt Romney was asked if he was considering running for president in 2016 in a New York Times magazine article Tuesday, he said, "We'll see what happens."
"I have nothing to add to the story," he said. "We've got a lot of people looking at the race."
The former Republican nominee has been adamant about not running again for the better part of two years, but beginning late this summer, his answers have become more "probably not" than just a straight "no." Here's how the long journey from "I'm not doing it again" to "We'll see what happens" has unfolded:
Nov. 6, 2012
Romney loses the election.
March 3, 2013
“I won’t get a third chance. I’m not doing it again,” Romney says on “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace,” his first interview after the election.
Sept. 5, 2013
Former Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams, referring to predictions Romney made about Russia, Detroit and Mali, tells BuzzFeed: “Obviously, it would have been nice if any of these incidents would have occurred during the campaign to vindicate Romney. You would never want to see the bankruptcy of a major U.S. city, or the president embarrass himself on the world stage like he has, but Gov. Romney did discuss these potential outcomes.”
Nov. 15, 2013
“You know, it was a fabulous experience. I loved it. But we’re not doing that again,” Romney says on “CBS This Morning.”
Nov. 19, 2013
A Washington Post-ABC poll finds Romney tied with President Obama, 47 percent to 47 percent, if the 2012 election were held today.
Jan. 17, 2014
The Netflix documentary “Mitt” is released.
“Oh, no, no, no. No, no, no, no, no. No, no, no,” he says when asked by the New York Times if he’d consider a third presidential run.
“I’m not running for president. I made that clear the morning after the last loss,” he says on CNN’s “The Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer.”
“I’m not running for president,” he says on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“I fully anticipate that I’ll be supporting [another Republican running for president] very vigorously,” Romney says on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“The unavailable is always the most attractive, right? That goes in dating as well,” he says at a donor summit in Park City, Utah.
“I’m not running, and talk of a draft is kind of silly,” he says on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) says, “I happen to be in the camp that thinks he’s actually going to run, and I think he will be the next president of the United States,” on MSNBC’s “Hardball With Chris Matthews.”
A Gallup poll finds that four in five Americans say they think the country would be governed better if people with business and management experience were in office.
A CNN/ORC poll finds Romney would beat Obama 53 percent to 44 percent if the election were held today.
Spencer Zwick, the former chairman of Romney’s national finance council, tells The Washington Post: “Democrats don’t want to be associated with Barack Obama right now, but Republicans are dying to be associated with Mitt Romney. Candidates, campaigns and donors in competitive races are calling saying, ‘Can we get Mitt here?’ They say, ‘We’ve looked at the polling, and Mitt Romney moves the needle for us.’ That’s somewhat unexpected for someone who lost the election.”
“I’ve actually answered that one a lot of times,” Romney says when asked during a stop in West Virginia campaigning for candidates.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R), Romney's 2012 vice presidential running mate, says on CNBC's "Squawk Box": “I would love to see Mitt run again. I hope he does. He’s pretty emphatic in saying he won’t. He obviously does well in the polls today.”
Ryan says that the “third time’s the charm” during a joint-appearance with Romney in Chicago to promote Ryan’s book. “As you see how things have gone, I think we’re at an ‘I told you so’ moment. Mitt is being vindicated on foreign policy and on domestic policy. I think people are seeing that his projections were correct and the kind of person he is.”
Romney said, “My posture, and I’ve explained this many times, is that I’m not running, but I hope Paul will give it thought, and there are other good people in the party giving thought, getting things organized.”
For the first time, Romney hedges, saying “circumstances can change,” after being pressed by radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt.
“I had the chance of running. I didn’t win. Someone else has a better chance than I do. And that’s what we believe, and that’s why I’m not running, and you know, circumstances can change, but I’m just not going to let my head go there,” he tells Hewitt.
In a Politico article, Hewitt and Robert O’Brien said, “the enthusiasm for another Romney run went from 35 mph to 80 mph overnight,” after the comment.
Romney writes a Washington Post op-ed titled, “The need for a mighty U.S. military.”
He appears on “Fox News Sunday With Chris Wallace” and criticizes Obama’s foreign policy. The same day, Obama appears on “Meet the Press.”
When asked during an appearance on Fox News Channel with Neil Cavuto whether her husband would run in 2016 if Jeb Bush did not, Ann Romney said, “Well, we will see, won’t we, Neil?”
Romney is described by the Washington Examiner as “talking with advisers, consulting with his family, keeping a close eye on the emerging ’16 Republican field, and carefully weighing the pluses and minuses of another run.”
New York Times magazine publishes a story titled "Mitt isn't ready to call it quits." When asked about a 2016 run, Romney says, "I have nothing to add to the story. We've got a lot of people looking at the race. We'll see what happens." Later, when talking about whether the reception of the unscripted nature of the "Mitt" documentary and the positive reception it received meant campaigns should follow suit, he says, "If I had to do this again, I'd insist that you literally had a camera on me at all times. I want to be reminded that this is not off the cuff."
Romney benefits from being well-liked among Republican leaders and the juxtaposition of his hypothetical what-ifs next to Obama’s flagging second-term popularity, but he has challenges.
As The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake pointed out, Romney’s poll numbers are especially high right because he’s better known than a lot of other potential 2016 Republican candidates and because Obama is so unpopular. Two NBC News/Wall Street Journal surveys taken in 2012 and 2014 show that Romney actually is less popular in 2014 than he was in 2012.
Voters already had a chance to pick Romney, and they didn’t. But as Zwick, the former chairman of his national finance council, said, the fact that candidates are asking Romney to stump for them ahead of the midterms is “somewhat unexpected for someone who lost the election.”
This post was originally published on Sept. 28.