Mitt Romney has consistently said he isn’t running for president again, but his friend Rep. Jason Chaffetz thinks otherwise.
Chaffetz, R-Utah, caused a bit of a stir when he said on MSNBC’s “Hardball” on Monday evening that he believes Romney will launch a third bid for the White House.
Reached early Tuesday by The Salt Lake Tribune, Chaffetz said his comments are based on gut feeling and not conversations with Romney or his family. Though it should be noted that Chaffetz is a Romney acolyte, who spent 100 days on the campaign trail for the former Massachusetts governor in 2012.
“Right now, I think there are more reasons [for Romney] to do it than not,” Chaffetz said. “I haven’t yet consulted my Magic 8 Ball, but I bet it would come to the same conclusion.”
The congressman notes that no Republican has emerged as a front-runner for the 2016 nomination, and Romney has maintained a major political presence by endorsing candidates and holding fundraisers, not to mention his big annual conference in Park City each June.
“He’s not exactly tucking his hat down low and fading off into the sunset,” Chaffetz said. “He is still a very visible presence.”
Romney also has the proven ability to raise the big money necessary to run for president, which would be key if Hillary Clinton remains the front-runner for the Democratic nomination.
Chaffetz’s last argument is that American voters haven’t dismissed Romney. A poll by Quinnipiac University showed that 45 percent of respondents thought the country would have been better off if Romney had defeated President Barack Obama in 2012, while 38 percent said the nation would be worse off.
If Romney did join a Republican race that may include candidates such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, he’d likely do so later in the election season and only after being drafted by the party, Chaffetz suggested.
“It won’t be a traditional campaign,” Chaffetz said. “He’s not going to make a two-year run at it, he doesn’t have to.”
The congressman isn’t the only Republican suggesting that party leaders try to draft the 2012 nominee. Utah Republican Party Chairman James Evans has started a “draft Mitt” effort and at Romney’s Park City gathering, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough said: “Someone here needs to start a ‘draft Mitt’ movement. … This is the only person who can fill the stage.”
Romney has responded to such encouragement the same way he has every time someone has asked if he’ll run again.
During an appearance on “Meet the Press” in mid-June, Romney didn’t mince his words: “I’m not running, and talk of a draft is kind of silly.”