July 11th, 2014
01:04 PM ET
8 years ago

What's behind Romney 2016 speculation

(CNN) - Here we go again. Another poll adding to the feeding frenzy over a possible third Mitt Romney run for the White House.

While the 2012 Republican presidential nominee's repeatedly said he's not running again in 2016, the attention such speculation captures is a sign of the wide open nature right now of the next GOP nomination race.

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"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, told CNN.

GOP strategist Kevin Madden, who served as a senior adviser in Romney's 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, said that "the interest 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.

Romney's numbers adding up

The latest survey to generate buzz: A WMUR/Granite State Poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire. The survey, released Thursday night, indicated that Romney would be the overwhelming front runner in the first-in-the-nation primary state if he decided to run again. Thirty-nine percent of likely GOP primary voters in the Granite State said they'd support Romney, with the potential 2016 Republican White House hopefuls all in single digits.

It's the second straight poll to indicate Romney would be the frontrunner in New Hampshire. Last month a Suffolk University/Boston Herald survey indicated that 24% of Granite State Republicans and independents who lean towards the GOP said that Romney would be their first choice for their party's presidential nomination, far ahead of the rest of the field.

While the surveys are making headlines, it's important to remember that Romney's very well known in New Hampshire. He owns a vacation home in the state, has often appeared at GOP events in New Hampshire, and was governor of neighboring Massachusetts. Romney easily won the state's 2012 Republican primary, but lost the state by six percentage points to President Barack Obama in the general election.

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 again last week, 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.

Besides generating buzz, the polls have peaked the interest of some major Republican donors.

An adviser close to former Massachusetts governor told CNN that he received a bunch of calls last month in the hour following the release of the Suffolk University/Boston Herald poll, from donors who contributed to the 2012 Romney presidential campaign.

Spencer Zwick, the campaign finance chairman for Romney's 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, recently told CNN that he thinks the polls create "a hope and interest from a lot of those donors who would have loved to seen Romney become president but are hopeful there may be a shot in the future."

"It started a few months ago with donors saying 'do you think there's any shot,' to donors now saying 'how do we convince him to do it.' Which is kind of interesting because they have heard Gov. Romney say 'I'm not planning on doing this again' and I think some of these donors don't want to take no for an answer," Zwick added.

No, No, No

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.

How many ways can Romney say 'no' to 2016

With just about every national and state poll indicating that the next GOP presidential nomination battle remains a wide open affair with no frontrunner among the potential contenders, it's no wonder that many Republicans still look to Romney.

"There are many people like me who would support Governor Romney if he decided to run again, but ultimately I believe he will find other ways to serve our country and the GOP in 2016," said veteran New Hampshire GOP consultant Jim Merrill, who was a top adviser to Romney in the Granite State in the 2008 and 2012 campaigns.

Since his defeat in the 2012 presidential election, Romney's taken on the role of Republican Party elder statesman, in hopes of helping shape the future of the party. Since late last year, he's made a bunch of endorsements – all successful – in a number of GOP primary battles this cycle.

But Madden says there's a reason Romney's been "crystal clear" about not running again: "He knows how even that speculation has a negative impact on the prospective field. It holds up donors, it holds up volunteers and staff."

What if Romney had won

Another reason for the Romney renaissance may be "buyers remorse," or in the case of Republicans who voted against Obama, an "I told you so" sentiment.

"The rising interest in Romney is because Republicans feel that President Obama is badly managing our country while it is in the middle of some serious foreign and domestic challenges. Romney is viewed by some as a competent former CEO who could bring stability and direction to the White House," said GOP consultant Ron Bonjean, who has been a top strategist and adviser to House and Senate Republican leaders.

"It's no surprise that Americans are wondering 'what if' Mitt Romney had been elected president as they watch President Obama stumble from one crisis to the next," added Merrill.

And part of it is just timing, plain and simple.

"There's a lot of buyers' remorse with Obama, and I think Romney's name pops to the top of the list because not long ago, he was out there running a national campaign," said Sawyer.

Filed under: 2016 • Mitt Romney • New Hampshire • Poll
soundoff (96 Responses)
  1. Lily

    If GOP thinks they can put Romney's name forward and win; I borrow "W" words: "bring it on". Romney can't win. What has he rectified so far since he lost election in 2012? Totally nothing. Seeing polls now that he is better than the President, doesn't translate being better than Hillary. GOP, you better consult Ann Coulte,r she will tell the best answer!

    July 11, 2014 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  2. Herbal Tea

    It would be extremely hard for him to run in 2016 after vehemently saying no,no,no. Flip/Flop?

    July 11, 2014 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  3. Rudy NYC


    "What's behind Romney 2016 speculation"

    Shroom koolaid.
    There's a civil war among conservatives. I think that there is a kind of king maker strategy going on here. Having been the party's most recent nominee, Romney is arguably the leader of the Republican Party. I think Romney could be the establishment's answer to the Tea Party's darling, Sarah Palin. Palin goes around endorsing people. I suspect that the establishment wants Romney to fill a similar role.

    Neither of them will never face voters ever again. Romney can even go around making reasonable sounding comments, which would likely anger the base, in an attempt to attract moderates, He could care less about it because the angered base knows that" their guy" would never say anything like that. I see it as a win-win for Republicans.

    July 11, 2014 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  4. Bubba

    What's behind Romney 2016 speculation????? Fear, and the understanding that only the most Liberal Republican stands a chance in 2016.
    The GOP needs to funnel all their money towards races in Congress, and just crown Hillary now.

    July 11, 2014 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  5. strategicbob

    The reason Romney is polling so high among Republicans is really quite simple. The proven loser looks quite good when placed next to the other Repubican Presidential wanna-be's. This is a truly sad commentary on the former Grand Old Party. What was once reallly the GOP – the Grand Old Party – is now just the POP – the Pathetic Obsolete Party.

    Personally, I am not a Hillary fan but I want to see Hillary win just so I can watch heads explode all over La-La Land – Rove, Limpbaugh, Boehner, Chinless Mitch, Hannity, Beck, Palin,...

    July 11, 2014 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  6. Rockymtnhi

    He still would love to buy into the White House. Him and Palin goin to be running mates. BUT....HILLARY GONNA win in 2016....here comes another 21 candidates on the republican side keeping the paid for media happy.

    July 11, 2014 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  7. Rudy NYC

    Bill from GA

    Rudy NYC – " Had they polled me I would have been one of those to say that the country could be better off had Romney won, because of the simple fact that Republicans would have stopped all of this destructive obstruction. "

    Sure, Rudy. We would be better off with More Wars, More Tax Cuts (and Debt), Less Environmental Regulations, Repealing Obamacare, etc. And the same immigration problems, because repubs don't want to enforce the laws any more than the Dems.

    And if you think the gutless Dems would have stopped any of that, I can sell you a nice bridge over the East River to Flatbush Av.
    I didn't say that I'd vote for him. I said that Republicans would stopped the obstruction, and we could possibly get a jobs bill passed. I also pretty sure that Democrats would have filibustered any and all of the horrors that you described, except for the war part.

    You've got a point there. We'd most likely would be in Syria, which is more of a Russian problem more than ours. Iran, N. Korea, Crimea. Yeah, we'd be fighting somewhere else besides Iraq and Afghanistan.

    July 11, 2014 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    The federal government has $71 billion budget surplus in June 2014 and is on track for lowest annual deficit since 2008. Obama is a total failure.

    Did I do that right, sonny chapman? 🙂

    July 11, 2014 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  9. The Real Tom Paine

    @ Fair, still trying to promote the Mormon aristocrat? Give it up. The man tried and lost, and the only reason why people are saying this is because Obama is unwilling to promote his achievements, and the GOP is very good at fiction. Please tell us any new ideas the GOP has come up with that did not come from the Crib notes version of " Atlas Shrugged"? Does the GOP believe in doing anything that does not involve sensing my money to subsidize Sheldon Adelson?

    July 11, 2014 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  10. The Real Tom Paine

    sending, sorry.

    July 11, 2014 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  11. Tone

    Republican loosers won't go away for instance palin jeeese go away and ride your inhouse elevators for pete's sake.

    July 11, 2014 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  12. Linc

    We would be lucky to have him but he is not running again. Having that empty suit Obama for 6 years makes Mitt look overqualified, brilliant and far too competent. At this point subjecting himself to the liberal media thugs once again is not worth it. A great family and wealth is enough.

    July 11, 2014 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  13. ThinkAgain: If you don't like Congress, get rid of the repub/tea bag majority

    It's the same strategy the gop employed in 2012 of trotting out as many wannabes as possible, to keep their memory-of-a-gnat base engaged and opening their wallets. Even though Mittens is a loser, he's at least moderately sane compared to the other clowns exiting the gop candidate car. So he'll be around for a while ... until Jeb is anointed the nominee.

    July 11, 2014 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  14. Matt

    It might just be the liberal news' media's fantasy that the GOP would field such a pathetic nominee again. But if the Republicans finally overcome the stupid, they will avoid picking a pair of white guys again. There's plenty of prospective candidates who are qualified – more so than the current President by far – they don't need to settle for white males all the time. Time to silence the race card on the left by choosing a couple of minorities, hopefully including an intelligent female.

    July 11, 2014 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  15. Douglas

    What's behind Romney 2016 speculation?????

    not having any other viable candidates.

    the cupboard is VERY bare, in the land of the GOP. 🙂

    July 11, 2014 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  16. Anonymous

    .....just as the stacked deck, as perpetuated by the gridlock and dysfunction, is showing signs of being dismantled, we should embrace a catalyst of same ?

    NOT !

    Balance will be returned to the equation, but only if the GOP is run out of the country.

    July 11, 2014 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  17. it must be said

    Let's see.... Obama's second term so far is:

    Obamacare lies come out, named 2013 Liar of the Year
    Obamacare rollout the biggest web site disaster in history, no heads roll
    IRS targeting hundreds of TEA Party groups, Lois Lerner takes the 5th, emails disappear
    VA killing our veterans by denying them care
    Russia invades and annexes Crimea, Obama wags finger
    ISIS is in the process of taking over Iraq, Obama twiddles thumbs
    USA being invaded on the southern border, Obama goes campaign fund raising

    Obama is a MEGA-disaster.

    July 11, 2014 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  18. sly

    IF we had elected Romney:

    – our deficit would have risen another 50%, rather than the record deficit reductions by Obama
    – 50 million war vets and teachers would continue to be banned from health care by the GOP BigPhar/BigMed
    – we would have started wars in Iran, Russia and Syria, rather than enjoying 6 years without a war (thank you Pres!)
    – our stock markets would still be at record lows, rather than the Obama record highs (and 401k's!)
    – our government would continue to discrimate on the basis of race and preference
    – the Rich 1%er's would continue to reap record Welfare and enthtilements – hey, have your cake and eat it too
    – illegal immigrants will continue to pour over the border, since the GOP refuses to fund anything else

    Oh yeah, Osama Bin Laden would still be attacking our nation each year ... Yeah ... we really want Mitt.

    July 11, 2014 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  19. Gurgyl

    @Link, I bet if you wear suit you look like total empty in brain too, not Pres. Obama–yes, he killed Bin Laden where republicans hid him in Abottabad, he passed ACA Law. O.k, go take pill, sleep.

    July 11, 2014 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  20. Rudy NYC


    We would be lucky to have him but he is not running again. Having that empty suit Obama for 6 years makes Mitt look overqualified, brilliant and far too competent. At this point subjecting himself to the liberal media thugs once again is not worth it. A great family and wealth is enough.
    Every former CEO of large company that sat in the White House oversaw the onset of the worst economic times this country has ever seen. That's a fact. CEOs have made a terrible mess of the economy every time that they have been given a chance. The odds say that Romney would have been no different. Leading a government is very different from running a government. We don't need a comptroller. We need a guy who can go to places like London and not be laughed at for his personality. Mitt's the Gomer Pyle of the rich and famous at times. And, I liked Gomer. Nice guy.

    July 11, 2014 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  21. Hector Slagg

    Rumors, Rumors, Rumors !!!
    The News Media needs news stories !!! If it isn't Chris Christi it is Sarah Palin, now it's Mitt Romney. Or whoever. The possibility is that one of them is going to be elected 2 years from now. Then the ship will hit the Sand and the Liberals are going to go into hibernation like Rip Van Winkle for the next thousand years !!! Maybe they will be allowed to clean out the cattle barns in Wisconsin. If you are a Bleeding Heart Liberal better hide your Rubber ducky because it is going to be toast! I would say better shore up your retirement but I would have to spell it out for you. Look at it this way. Your Nanny is dead.

    July 11, 2014 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  22. Luc

    who did they pole sothern USA

    July 11, 2014 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  23. FLUX

    Can you imagine how many Republicans will vote against Mitt after he said last time that 47% of the American people are lazy and stupid and he wasn't going to do anything for them. All Republicans are not lazy and stupid but he may be..

    July 11, 2014 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  24. ug

    What does it matter to cnn! none of your business...

    July 11, 2014 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  25. Gurgyl

    Bush, Reagan destroyed, not Obama, dumbo.

    July 11, 2014 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
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