Despite repeated insistence that he won’t be running in 2016, Mitt Romney is still a favored GOP darling.

“Mitt Romney is back,” wrote Gail Collins in The New York Times, immediately following with the disclaimer “Don’t leap to any conclusions.”

Romney, she continued, might not be a political figure anymore but he has remained in a positive light after losing the presidential election, even becoming more prominent in the public over time.

But a lack of plausible GOP candidates might make Romney seem appealing for the 2016 elections, Collins said.

On June 19, Suffolk University and The Boston Herald put together a poll to ask New Hampshire’s Granite State University Republicans and independents which candidate would be their first pick for a Republican presidential nomination.

While the sample size might be small, Romney received 24 percent of the votes in that poll, leaving Gov. Chris Christie in a distant second place with 9 percent of the votes.

However, “it's important to remember that Romney's very well-known in New Hampshire,” CNN editor Paul Steinhauser said of the poll. “He owns a vacation home in the state, has often appeared at GOP events in New Hampshire, and was governor of neighboring Massachusetts.”

But as Republicans search their midst for a presidential candidate, even those who had previously been disdainful of Romney now have nicer things to say.

Former Sen. Scott Brown, R-Massachusetts, for example, “went from keeping Mitt Romney at arm’s length to bringing him in for a full embrace,” according to Joshua Miller of the Boston Globe.

Brown, who was initially hesitant to condone Romney, has recently made very concrete public statements such as “Our country would be in much better shape if Governor Romney were in the White House today,” reports the Globe.

Brown may be indicative of the opinions of a larger part of the Republican Party, according to the Washington Post, especially as time passes with no strong Republican front-runner.

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“Perceptions (of potential candidates) have obviously changed,” wrote Dan Balz of the Post. “How else to explain the nostalgia for Romney and the interest in a Romney 2016 candidacy (despite his repeated denials)?”

But according to Collins, the nostalgia is nothing more than that: nostalgia.

“Could powerful moderates in the Republican Party be desperate enough to want to bring back Mitt?” she wrote. “The guy who raised $1 billion for his presidential race and still managed to lose the election?”

Bethan Owen is a writer for the Deseret News Moneywise and Opinion sections. Twitter: BethanO2