Mitt Romney is seriously considering a third bid for the presidency, McClatchy has learned.
“He’s more open to it, based on the encouragement he’s received,” said a source familiar with the situation.
The 2012 Republican presidential nominee told donors he was looking at a run, according to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal campaign deliberations. Romney made the move as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has shaken up the early stages of the race with a potential candidacy, one that threatened to start locking up establishment Republican contributors and freezing out other candidates.
Romney met with his backers in the New York City offices of Woody Johnson, owner of football’s New York Jets and a top Romney donor, according to the Associated Press.
Romney could offer serious competition for Bush, who leaped to the top tier of the Republican pack this month as he considers a bid. Bush’s backers hope to raise enough this quarter to intimidate would-be challengers. Bush aides have denied reports of a $100 million fundraising goal, according to the Miami Herald.
Regardless, Romney has financial resources he could tap that could match Bush.
“I’m sure a Romney candidacy will have an impact on Bush,” said Andrew Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center. Moderate New Hampshire voters, he said, are about 40 percent of the electorate, and should they split, they could create an opening for a single conservative to do well.
“Romney would split up that moderate bloc,” Smith said.
Romney and Bush would compete with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for the center-right, establishment vote.
Romney likely would face the same hurdles that derailed his bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 and hurt him in 2012, when he won the nomination but lost the general election. He was portrayed as out of touch with ordinary people struggling with a stagnant economy and not well-versed in foreign affairs.
Romney also was never embraced by the party’s conservative wing. He lost the conservative-dominated Iowa caucus, the nation’s first presidential test, both years he ran. The former Massachusetts governor then finished second in New Hampshire in 2008 to Arizona Sen. John McCain, virtually dooming his candidacy.
Romney won the primary in 2012, and then was able to use his financial advantage in other key states, swamping Florida with ads sharply criticizing chief rival Newt Gingrich in 2012 and scoring a big, crucial victory.
He was then able to overcome his chief conservative challenger, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who also couldn’t match Romney’s fundraising or organization.
Romney has led most 2016 presidential preference polls. Those polls show just how much of an impact he would have on Bush.
The McClatchy-Marist poll last month found Romney with the support of 23 percent of Republican or Republican-leaning voters. Bush trailed at 15 percent, and Christie had 10 percent.
Without Romney in the mix, Bush led with 17 percent. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who is considering running and defeated Romney in Iowa in 2008, was next at 12 percent, followed by Christie at 11 percent.