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A third Mitt Romney run seen as 'far-fetched'

Published: Monday, May 5 2014 6:35 p.m. MDT

A A "Draft Mitt" booth was set up at the April 26, 2014, Republican state convention, held at the South Towne Expo Center in Sandy. (Lisa Riley Roche, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A new "Draft Mitt" movement being organized in Utah to recruit the former GOP nominee into making a third run for president in 2016 was labeled a longshot Monday by political observers.

"It's far-fetched," University of New Hampshire political science professor Dante Scala said of the likelihood that Mitt Romney could be talked into another try at the White House. "I think Mitt's too smart to buy that."

But Brett Nielsen and others in Utah, including state GOP Chairman James Evans, hope to put together a strong enough case that Romney won't be able to say no to getting into the race.

"He's been pretty adamant he's not going to run again," said Nielsen, a vice president of an online marketing company who worked on Romney's 2012 campaign. "I don't know if there's anything appealing about this to him right now."

What could change Romney's mind, Nielsen said, is a strong show of support from voters who realize they should have paid more attention to Romney's pronouncements on Russia and other issues.

"He was right about a lot of things," Nielsen said.

While there's a petition online at draftmitt.org, Nielsen said the group is just starting to look at what it's going to take to convince Romney he's still the right man for the job.

"Probably sometime in early July, maybe late June, we'll have a better idea," Nielson said. "Right now, it's just some phone calls and some emails. There's just not much to say yet."

Scala said New Hampshire voters have already moved on, even though they may look back on Romney fondly after giving him a win in 2012 in what is traditionally the nation's first presidential primary.

"Typically, activists up here are looking to the next thing, what's the new thing in American politics. They're also looking for a winner in 2016," Scala said. "And Mitt does not fit either of those categories."

In another early voting state, South Carolina, Clemson University pollster Dave Woodard is getting ready to ask voters there to pick from among potential GOP contenders in the next presidential race.

"There's no room for Mitt," Woodard said, with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul on the list of choices.

Romney lost to former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich in a bitterly contested primary in South Carolina in 2012 and didn't even compete in 2008 in what is traditionally the first Southern state to vote in a presidential race.

"I don't think South Carolina is too much enamored with Mitt," Woodard said. "He's kind of old-hat. They keep thinking there is some brighter, fresher alternative. … What's he have this time that he didn't have last time?"

Matthew Wilson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, said Romney has been "tremendously vindicated" for raising concerns about Russia during the 2012 campaign.

"That may be fanning the flames," Wilson said, but that's not likely to be enough to overcome being seen as a political retread.

"There are reasons to think he could be viable again, but there is a very, very strong sentiment in political parties to go with a fresh face rather than someone who has failed," Wilson said.

Even one of Romney's top surrogates on the 2012 campaign trail, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, was skeptical about the impact of the Draft Mitt effort.

"I wonder how many signatures it would take to convince him to jump back in. There's no question Utah's behind Mitt. The question is: Is Ohio?" Chaffetz said. "I still maintain he'd be an effective and professional president, but he lost."

Email: lisa@deseretnews.com, Twitter: DNewsPolitics

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