Mitt Romney told a group of longtime supporters on Friday that he is considering running for president, a major turnaround for a past GOP nominee who just a year ago categorically ruled out a 2016 run.
If he follows through, it would be Romney’s third White House campaign, and it would shake up the already large field of Republicans eyeing the presidency. But even many Romney supporters are skeptical he will ultimately jump in and risk losing three times.
“Everybody in here can go tell your friends that I’m considering a run,” Romney said at a private meeting in New York with about 30 former donors, according to one source.
The former Massachusetts governor, who was the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, said he had a number of ideas about how to help the country, and that one of the issues he’d like to address is poverty, two people on hand at the meeting said. He also pledged that if he does decide to join the race, he would run a much different campaign than he has in the past.
The gathering was called a few weeks ago and was held in midtown Manhattan. Romney’s remarks were first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
People on hand included financier Patrick Durkin, and Alex Nabab, a financier who was part of a recent event with Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor who is also exploring a 2016 run, a source said.
For Romney’s former backers, the news wasn’t a complete surprise. But his decision to informally test the waters came as Bush has dominated media coverage and donor interest for the last several weeks.
Bush has been moving to engage the extensive donor network that backed his father and his brother in their White House campaigns. That means that for Romney, the window is closing. One source close to Romney said he will likely decide within the next two months about his next move.
Romney allies and former staffers have spent much of the past two years lamenting that he should have won in his 2012 campaign against President Barack Obama. Romney also ran for the White House in 2008, but lost the GOP nod to Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
Just a year ago, in an interview with The New York Times, Romney ruled out a presidential run in a most emphatic manner: “Oh, no, no, no. No, no, no, no, no. No, no, no,” he said.
But Romney supporters have argued that there’s a clamor for people who would like to see someone emerge as a leader for the Republican Party during a particularly fractious time, and Romney recently began making clear to donors and supporters that such talk was affecting his thinking.
In addition, Romney told those gathered Friday that his wife, Ann, was now very encouraging toward his running again, a source said — a change from her past protests. The couple’s five sons, however, were split on the notion.
Bush’s decision to move quickly to draw a line in the sand was in part because of Romney’s overtures to donors. Bush allies had privately grown frustrated that Romney was freezing some donors who hoped he would launch a campaign of his own.
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