Mitt Romney is thinking about running for president in 2016.
The 2012 Republican presidential nominee told a small group of donors in New York City on Friday that he’s looking at a third White House bid, said Spencer Zwick, who was Romney’s finance chairman in 2012 and who attended Friday’s event.
“People ask if I really want to be president,” Romney said, according to a source in the room. “Yeah, I want to be president.”
The news of Romney’s interest was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
Romney’s renewed enthusiasm for a campaign comes as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is making increasingly aggressive moves toward a presidential bid in 2016. Both candidates are popular with major donors and Romney’s move sends a signal to his old financial supporters to hold off on any commitments. Bush’s early moves have put pressure on potential White House hopefuls like Romney and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to declare their intentions soon or risk losing out on support from establishment leaders, who are looking to consolidate around one champion in order to fend off tea party candidates they fear are too conservative to win in 2016.
The latest rhetoric is a switch from Romney’s statements over the past two years; he had repeatedly told reporters and supporters that he was not planning to run. His wife, Ann Romney, told ABC News as recently as October that the family had “moved on” and was not considering another bid.
“Oh, no, no, no,” Romney famously told theThe New York Times last January when asked about a 2016 run. ”No, no, no, no, no. No, no, no.”
But some of his top supporters have long urged him to reconsider, arguing that his 2012 campaign has aged well – especially his warnings of Russian aggression – and that the presidential field is relatively weak without him.
“He’s more open to it, based on all the encouragement he’s received,” one source close to Romney told msnbc.
Romney has kept a high profile within the party since losing the presidency to Obama. He endorsed a number of candidates in 2014 midterm races and crisscrossed the country to appear at rallies and fundraisers, forging relationships with rising stars like Iowa Senator Joni Ernst. A documentary on his campaign, “Mitt,” drew positive reviews for humanizing the former nominee, with some suggesting it pointed to a more effective campaign approach.
He would still face significant hurdles in both the primaries and general election. While still beloved by his old backers, recent polls indicate he’s relatively unpopular nationally. Some within the GOP have criticized his campaign for failing to rebut attacks on his wealth and for focusing too much on courting business owners rather than middle- and working class Americans.
Prominent Republican leaders such as Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, another possible 2016 candidate, condemned Romney’s reported post-election comments that Obama won by handing out “gifts” to minorities, women, and young voters. Others blame Romney for alienating Hispanic voters by advocating “self-deportation,” although Republican lawmakers – after a brief flirtation with immigration reform – are increasingly returning to his position.