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D.C. Notebook: Why Mitt Romney won't run a third time

Published February 23, 2014 3:09 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Washington •

The draft-Mitt Romney-again movement is gaining steam in some GOP circles with worries that the potential new crop of Republican contenders could easily flop and keep Democrats — Hillary Clinton, perhaps — in the White House.

Romney failed in his 2008 and 2012 bids, but the chatter about a third run is making the conservative rounds. It took Ronald Reagan three tries, after all, to finally land the Oval Office. Romney supporters are giddy about the prospect.

"Once a month, someone would email or call and say he should run again," Ron Kaufman, a longtime Romney adviser, told The Boston Globe recently. "Now I get it every day — from the grass roots, and from donors. I get it every day."

It's a fun parlor game two years out from the first primaries, but it's also not an idea rooted firmly in reality. Romney knows better than to jump in the ring again.

"Oh, no, no, no. No, no, no, no, no. No, no, no," Romney told The New York Times last month about a third bid.

Romney's name isn't going to appear on a ballot again, and his actions since the election have made that clear. Yes, he's vocal when it comes to some issues — most recently on gay marriage, on Clinton and on Russia's big Olympic tab — but he's also settled back into private life, going forward with the renovation of his San Diego home and building another house in Holladay to be close to his family. He shops at Costco and pumps his own gas. He isn't headlining Lincoln Day dinners in South Carolina or visiting the far reaches of New Hampshire.

These are not signs of a man who is eyeing another run.

The clearest signal is one that some observers have mischaracterized.

This year, Romney allowed filmmaker Greg Whiteley to finally release the documentary "Mitt" that shows the softer, behind-the-scenes moments from Romney's 2008 and 2012 runs. Those who want Romney back — perhaps those who are still sore over President Barack Obama's re-election — saw the film as a relaunch of the Romney brand, that he could resurface a more humanized candidate.

True, but the release of the documentary mainly shows that Romney isn't worried about how it would play with voters, or if it gives him a new persona going into 2016. It's about his legacy, showing him as a family-focused person who really cares about what he's doing. He wanted the side of him that Americans didn't see to be out there now.

Romney is also aware that a third run would help the Democrats. They've already got the negative fodder piled up, ready and waiting. Cue the "47 percent" video again. And who in their right mind would want to go through all the trials and tribulations of a third campaign?

Romney hasn't actually said the famous line by Civil War General William Sherman — "I will not accept if nominated and will not serve if elected" — but Romney's words and actions are just as strong.

As for the point about Reagan's third try, Romney tamped that one down pretty quickly last week on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"I'm not Ronald Reagan," Romney said. "I think that has been pointed out to me before."

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Burr reports from Washington, D.C. For The Tribune. He can be reached at tburr@sltrib.com or via Twitter @thomaswburr.