(CNN) - He keeps saying no to third run for the White House, but another new poll – this time in Iowa – indicates Mitt Romney would be the front runner for the Republican presidential nomination if he changes his mind.
A USA Today/Suffolk University survey of Iowa voters released Wednesday should add to the feeding frenzy over a possible 2016 presidential bid by the 2012 GOP nominee. While the former Massachusetts governor's repeatedly said he's not running again, the attention such speculation captures is a sign of the wide open nature right now of the upcoming Republican nomination race.
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According to the new poll, if Romney was added to the list of potential 2016 GOP White House contenders, 35% of Iowa Republicans say he'd be their first choice in the Iowa caucuses, which kick off the presidential primary and caucus calendar.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who won the 2008 Iowa Republican caucuses and is considering another bid in 2016, is a distant second, at 9%. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who narrowly won the 2012 caucuses, are each at 6%. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Texas Gov. Rick Perry are each at 5%, with the remaining potential candidates tested were all in the lower single digits.
Take Romney out of the equation, and the poll indicates Huckabee – at 13% is on top of the crowded list of potential candidates. He's followed by Christie at 11%, Perry at 9% Paul at 7%, Santorum and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee, each at 6% and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida at 5%. The remaining potential candidates tested were all in the lower single digits.
The poll's 2016 GOP nomination results not only reflect the wide open race among the Republicans but are most likely also a reflection of name recognition.
"Think about it – we're still closer to the last presidential election than the next one. So until some of these other potential candidates have more time to really begin campaigning in earnest, I think Romney will continue to be top of mind for a lot of average voters," longtime South Carolina GOP consultant Joel Sawyer, senior VP of the Republican digital firm Push Digital, recently told CNN.
Romney keeps saying no
The poll's release comes one day after Romney said in a radio interview that "someone else stands a better chance of winning than I do."
"Had that not been the case," Romney told radio host Hugh Hewitt, "then I would be running."
Romney keeps 2016 talk alive with "Dumb and Dumber" scenario
Romney's been very clear on the subject of 2016.
"The answer is no, I'm not running for president in 2016. It's time for someone else to take that responsibility and I'll be supporting our nominee," he told anchor Wolf Blitzer in February on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer"
He's been using the same "I'm not running" language over and over again. And Romney's wife, Ann, has also been adamant against another run.
Romney tops the field in New Hampshire
Regardless, pollsters are asking about Romney. Two public opinion surveys conducted this summer in New Hampshire – WMUR/Granite State and Suffolk University/Boston Herald – indicated that Romney would be the overwhelming front runner in the first-in-the-nation primary state if he decided to run again.
The first poll to spark the Romney 2016 flames was an ABC News/Washington Post national survey released last November that suggested that if the 2012 presidential election between Romney and President Braack Obama were held today, Romney would hold a slight lead in the popular vote. Obama won the popular vote in the 2012 contest by a 51%-47% margin.
The flames were further fanned earlier this summer when by a 45%-38% margin, voters nationwide questioned in Quinnipiac University poll said that the country would be better off if Romney rather than Obama had won the 2012 election. And a CNN/ORC International survey conducted last month indicated Romney topping the President 53%-44% in the popular vote if the 2012 election were somehow held again.
GOP strategist Kevin Madden, who served as a senior adviser in Romney's 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, recently told CNN that "the interest in Romney is driven by those who believe, very deeply, that he would have been a very effective president and that he has been proven right on so many issues and ideas that he advanced in the 2012 campaign."
"But conceptual candidacies are very enticing, almost irresistible. Actual candidacies are cold, hard realities. There's a universe of differences between the two," added Madden, a CNN contributor.
That CNN/ORC poll backs up Madden's point. The survey suggested Romney losing to Hillary Clinton by a 55%-42% margin in a hypothetical 2016 matchup.
The USA Today/Suffolk University poll was conducted August 23-26, with 500 likely 2014 voters in Iowa questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.
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Funny, Funny – the republicans are always wishing to turn back the clock. But dealing with the present problems are too challenging though.
When running the 2016 [R] clown car: the more [R] clowns inside, the merrier.
I will enjoy watching each [R] clown, in his/her turn, being self-immolated with their own stupidity. After all, why should 2016 be any different than 2012? If there is one constant thing about [R]s, it is that they learn NO lessons from their or anyone else's mistakes. Why, if the Disaster-in Charge himself, G. Bush, is to believed, [R]s never even make mistakes anyway.
Is Romney really stupid enough to don his clown suit once again, and take another ride in the out-of-control [R] clown car as it crashes into the rightwing crap-bin?
I have to say I LOVE those mountains behind Mitt. One of the best things about living here in Salt Lake City.
Now...if the Republicans would just change the laws to allow me to order beer flights....
Is the GOP wanting a 3 Time Loser???
I just don't get it. In 2012 republicans nominate the guy that couldn't beat the guy who lost to O in 2008. Now the plan is to nominate the guy ......... Weather you like the current resident of the WH or not one thing is certain, the American people like new blood. Now more than ever with an absolutely do nothing congress old guard simply won't do. Hillary v. Willard. Come on America.
Just a poll. I would be very surprised if he runs. Very happy if he did though!
Christie – obese, and a crook
Paul – racist, hates all Jewish people, angry man
Cruz – ha ha ha ha ha ... shot his own foot off
Perry – can't count to 3 ... um, uh ... um ....
Palin – more valuable keeping an eye on the Russians from her bedroom
Romney – a three-time loser? are the Republicans serious?
This time, it won't be "47% who will vote againest Republicans no matter what". That number is up to about 67%.
And we all remember how well the winner of the 2011 Iowa straw poll, Michelle Bachmann, did in the 2012 Presidential election don't we?
Run him again, he will still be the same arrogant, twit he was in 2012 and Queen Ann can insult all of "you people" by refusing to show the last 10 years of Federal income taxes, AGAIN.
Color me curious, as I want to know how much the "prancing pony" will cost the tax payers in 2015!
Please DONT RUN AGAIN! You Lost before, once a loser always a loser.
Ronald Reagan won the presidency on his third try, and he is probably the best president the USA has had in the last half a century, hands down. At least we know now that Romney was right about all the things he said, and it turned out that inept Obama was wrong and had lied on all counts. Romney is actually the best man for the job, regardless of political party. No Clinton, no Obama, no Pelossi, no Biden even come close to the guy's intelligence and work ethics. But of course, I only want what is BEST for America, as opposed to Democrats and some Republicans who want someone that is best for their party and power grab.