Is “Meh, Romney 2016” For Real?

When push comes to shove, top Republicans may still try to make Mitt Romney happen.


There’s yet another poll out today showing that Mitt Romney, two-time losing candidate for President of the United States including one stint at the Republican nominee, remains a much stronger candidate in 2016 than reason might lead you to expect:

Former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney would still lead a pack of possible Republican contenders in New Hampshire if he were to run in 2016, a new poll shows.

Romney leads with 30 percent of the vote in a Bloomberg Politics/St. Anselm New Hampshire poll released Monday. It is a healthy 19-point lead over other possible GOP names, including Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who trails at 11 percent. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie received 9 percent, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush won 8 percent, and Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon and conservative commentator, follows with 6 percent.

Romney, a former governor in neighboring Massachusetts, has long been popular in New Hampshire, where he owns a summer home.

However, with Romney out of consideration, the field of Republican contenders tightens, with Christie and Paul both tied with 16 percent and Bush close behind with 14 percent.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is on top with 62 percent, while Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren received just 16 percent of the vote.

Romney performs the strongest in a potential matchup against Clinton, where he trails 46 to 45. Clinton beats Bush 47 to 39 percent and Paul 48 to 41 percent.

As I’ve noted many other times when these polls have come out, to a not insignificant degree what we’re seeing here is a reflection of the fact that Romney has a much higher degree of name recognition than most of the potential 2016 Republican field. As a result, it’s not entirely surprising that he would remain near the top in a poll that included his name, and to some extent at least you can accuse pollsters who insert his name into the questions of gaming the polls to some extent given the fact that Romney himself continues to insist that he is not running for President again. This would be especially true in a state like New Hampshire which Romney has a long history with going back to before he was Governor of Massachusetts. That being said, we’re getting close to the point where it becomes harder to dismiss these numbers as mere an ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ thing when it comes to someone who won the nomination four years ago. Candidates like Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, and even Rand Paul are hardly unknown faces among Republicans these days, after all. Thanks to constant cable news coverage, the Internet, and appearance on the campaign trial, these potential 2016 candidates and others are reaching the point where they ought to be at least somewhere known to people who say they are likely to vote in the 2016 primaries. The fact that they are trialing a guy that members of the GOP base claimed in the wake of the 2012 election was a “moderate,” and a “squish,” albeit not by huge numbers, suggests that voters are far from sold on the idea of any one of them being the GOP standard bearer in 2016.

Now, to be clear, the odds are that, in the end, the Republican nominee will be one of these men, or possibly even someone not included in this poll such as Illinois Governor John Kaisch or Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. At the same time, though, Mitt Romney sits out there and he hasn’t exactly disengaged himself from the Republican Party in the way many expected he would when the 2012 race ended. He was quite a prominent campaigner throughout the 2014 Presidential campaign cycle during which he endorsed candidates caught in tight primary battles, most of whom ended up winning their primary battles. He also seems to have played  role in bringing together many of these candidates and the high profile donors that backed him in 2012, and who seem to be sitting on the sidelines as the 2016 process begins. According to some reports, those donors see very little appealing when they look at the rest of the field. Two of the more prominent possibilities that might appeal to this group, Jeb Bush and Chris Christie, for example, are seen as having their own flaws that make a nation campaign doubtful. In Bush’s case there’s his name, the fact that he’s largely out of step with his party’s base, and the fact that nobody is sure he will run in the end. In Christie’s case, there’s the perception, which may or may not be correct, that Christie’s brash style would not play well in other parts of the country.  That leaves Romney, and while he’s not going to actually jump into the race in 2016 the way he did in 2008 or 2012, the possibility that the powers that be might turn to him if these numbers persist and the rest of the field continues to look weak, which I’ve discounted in the past, may be more likely than previously believed. In the end, I’d still put the odds of a third Romney run as being fairly low, but I’m not willing to dismiss it entirely until we’ve seen how the rest of the field plays out as we see their opening moves during the first half of 2015.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Mark Ivey says:

    I really wanna see all the Republicans(who dis-liked him BUT voted for him) stand in line and vote for him again though…


  2. Pinky says:

    Remember, there are three Republican nominations: the top conservative and top moderate are chosen, then those fight it out. (Actually, a better analogy would be a Pokémon battle, but I’m going to pretend I don’t know that.)

  3. C. Clavin says:

    Third times the charm.

  4. al-Ameda says:

    The fact remains, in 2012 Mitt Romney really was the best possible Republican candidate. Does anyone really think that, in no particular order, Bachmann, Palin, Santorum, West, Cain, Santorum, Gingrich or Perry would have done better?

    This time around? I’m not sure that the GOP wants a patrician-like Mitt Romney again. I think they could actually win with Rand Paul, however I hope (and this could be case of watch out what you hope for) the nominee is Ted Cruz.

  5. C. Clavin says:


    I think they could actually win with Rand Paul

    C’mon…President Aqua Buddha???
    He’s changed positions more often than a porn star.
    I’m not buying him as Presidential material.
    Opposition research would kill his chances inside an hour.

  6. grumpy realist says:

    The only state I can see Romney winning a Republican nomination this time around is New Hampshire.

    Romney vs. Ted Cruz for the nomination–I think I’ll invest in popcorn futures.

  7. An Interested Party says:

    Perhaps Romney wants to become the William Jennings Bryan of the 21st Century…

  8. Tillman says:

    Oh, for God’s sake, can’t we finish out the aftermath of the 2014 midterms in the comfort of our homes during the December holidays without more 2016 speculation? 2016 has been speculated on more than the election that just passed if you take news cycles going back to 2013 into account.

    It’s depressing either way. Speculate about the Democrats, and all you get is Hillary’s coronation. Speculate about the Republicans, and you get a range of mediocre candidates with the one at the top winning through sheer name recognition. The two are almost identical but for particulars.

  9. Slugger says:

    Dr. Mataconis appears to me to be a Romney partisan as he rolls out a lot of pro Mitt news. A few months ago, the news was that Romney won some kind of straw poll in NH by getting 25% of the vote. Today we get the exciting news that Romney remains in the lead in a state with 4 electoral votes. How’s he doing in NY, TX, CA, or OH?
    No disrespect to New Hamster, but I have actually been to Pittsburg (sic), and the radio gives the Montreal traffic report in French. a

  10. Pinky says:

    @Tillman: I’ll give you a hint: the December holidays started on November 1st.

  11. ernieyeball says:

    Dandy Randy Paul today: War With ISIS!

    Dandy Randy Paul 2011:

    “I’m not for profiling people on the color of their skin, or on their religion, but I would take into account where they’ve been traveling and perhaps, you might have to indirectly take into account whether or not they’ve been going to radical political speeches by religious leaders. It wouldn’t be that they are Islamic. But if someone is attending speeches from someone who is promoting the violent overthrow of our government, that’s really an offense that we should be going after — they should be deported or put in prison.

    The Sean Hannity Show, 27 April 2011 quoted in Seitz-Wald, Alex (31 May 2011), “Rand Paul, Supposed Defender Of Civil Liberties, Calls For Jailing People Who Attend ‘Radical Political Speeches’”, ThinkProgress, retrieved on 2011-06-02

    Jail for citizens who listen to speeches…Thought Police anyone?

  12. Tillman says:

    @Pinky: Only if you’re selling something.

  13. ernieyeball says:

    @Tillman Scrooge:..Only if you’re selling something.

    See Christmas All Year

    At CAY, our main goal is to “honour Christmas in our hearts, and try to keep it all the year.” (Charles Dickens)…Our site does not have any advertising and we will not respond to any inquires regarding putting advertising on our site.

  14. grumpy realist says:

    @Slugger: I think it’s more a case of acute bemusement on Doug’s part. Like rubber-necking at a 50-car pileup, which is what this will turn into.

  15. Mr. Prosser says:

    @grumpy realist: I hope so.

  16. JWH says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Perhaps Romney wants to become the William Jennings Bryan of the 21st Century…

    Though I suspect Romney’s cross of gold would be entirely different.

  17. C. Clavin says:

    There used to be a restaurant in Playa Del Rey (just South of LA) that kept their X-Mas decorations up all year. Maybe they still do. They also had a bunch of black-lights going. Very weird effect.

  18. Paul Hooson says:

    Despite being a far less substantial candidate than Senator John McCain was , Mitt Romney did come a little closer in the popular vote than McCain in 2012 only because of some voter disenchantment with President Obama. That being said, the Romney Campaign was poorly managed both in 2008 and even worse in 2012. Unlike his father, George Romney, who well managed American Motors Corporation, the son just hasn’t proven the same top management skills. Further, he would flip flop on issues to appear more conservative than he really was, which made him appear phony. Further, his presidency would be characterized by a dangerous and clueless understanding of foreign policy as well as petty domestic policies such as a Mitt Romney Justice Department war on pornography. I really think that few persons outside of Mitt Romney really think that a war on Internet porn should be a top priority or even any priority.

    Provided that Obama hasn’t completely ruined the blue state electoral firewall, the democrats start with 257 electoral votes, where only adding a few states such as Iowa, Colorado, Virginia, Ohio or Florida will win another election. Republicans have a very difficult task putting together 270 electoral votes. Romney may run closer to winning than most republican candidates, but he likely cannot put together 270 votes to win given the political map reality. Further, he would likely be a worst president than Obama in many areas, including even a worse foreign policy than this administration.