Last January Mitt Romney was asked if he would consider running for the White House again. “Oh, no, no, no. No, no, no, no, no. No, no, no.” he told The New York Times.
That certainty appears to have receded.
“Everybody in here can go tell your friends that I’m considering a run,” he told a group of around 30 former donors at a recent function in Manhattan, Politico has reported.
The former Massachusetts governor lost the race for the Republican Party’s 2008 nomination to John McCain and the 2012 presidential election to Barack Obama.
It is understood his comments to donors were made some weeks ago, but that he held a meeting with donors in his former Manhattan campaign offices on Friday.
Without a clear frontrunner for the 2016 nomination Mr Romney has remained a favourite in polls of Republican voters.
As recently as December Mr Romney and Mr McCain topped a CNN poll as favoured candidates, while another from July last year found that if the election were held again he would now trounce Mr Obama.
Many of his supporters have argued that in the two years since the 2012 election, positions that Mr Romney took during the campaign turned out to be correct.
“I think about the campaign every single day, and what a shame it is who we have in the White House,” Spencer Zwick, who worked as Romney’s finance director and is a close friend to his family, told Buzzfeed last year. “I look at things happening and I say, you know what? Mitt was actually right when he talked about Russia, and he was actually right when he talked about how hard it was going to be to implement Obamacare, and he was actually right when he talked about the economy.”
Others have reported that this is the view held by Mr Romney and his wife Ann, who believe he would have been a better president than Mr Obama over the past two years.
Mr Romney is a favoured candidate by many party establishment figures who fear that other popular figures – people like senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz – are too extreme or unconventional to win an election.
The wide field of presumed candidates is lead at present by Jeb Bush, the brother and son of former presidents and a former governor of Florida. His family name is considered as much a hindrance as a help in the race, given his brother’s unpopularity and reservations among many Americans about dynastic politics.
But Mr Bush is working fast to secure the support of many big Republicans donors, forcing others considering a run to enter the field sooner than they otherwise might have.
Though Mr Romney enjoys near universal name recognition as a result of his previous run and has been thoroughly vetted by the press and public, he would still need to overcome the flaws that dogged his candidacy in 2012.
During that race he never truly excited the base of the Republican Party and he proved unable to overcome the sense that he was a privileged multi-millionaire disconnected from middle class American life.
The next election will be fought largely over middle-class concerns. Though the American economy has significantly improved since 2012 the benefits of that recovery have flowed into the hands of the wealthiest Americans, while middle class wages and wealth had stagnated or dropped.
Mr Romney’s wealth was estimated at around $US250 million at the time of the last election, and his campaign was further damaged by the leaked recording of him telling wealthy donors that 47 per cent of American voters dependent on government hand-outs and would never vote for him.
“My job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives,” he said.