Mitt Romney will address the Republican National Committee on Friday night at the committee’s winter meeting, an RNC source tells CNN. The remarks will be open press…

Romney was invited to the event after he conveyed interest in a third presidential bid during a meeting with potential supporters and donors last Friday.

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Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin isn’t lining up to support Mitt Romney’s third run at the White House, though she didn’t say who she might support in the 2016 race.

“We need new energy. We need new blood. We need new ideas,” Palin said in an interview with “Inside Edition” airing Wednesday.

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“If you believe in your heart that this country is going to hell in a hand basket and is worse than ever, you owe it to your country to think about this,” one longtime Romney adviser said. “There’s a burden there to think this thing through carefully.”

“But there needs to be a rationale,” the adviser continued. “If we made one mistake — and we made more than one in ’12 — it was in not making people understand this is the Turnaround guy.”…

“Maybe he’s been pushed by people around him for months to run,” one donor who was in the room last week said. “But this feels like a guy who only came to grips with it over a two- or three-week holiday. I really think this was a December decision.”…

If Romney were president, one longtime adviser said, “There wouldn’t be an ISIS at all, and Putin would know his place in life. Domestically, things would be in better shape.”

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This paragraph, buried in the middle of a Boston Globe story, captures everything so perfectly:

“Underlying it all is the notion that, in the mind of Romney and his top advisers, the country made a mistake in not electing Romney in 2012. They want to give the country another shot at sending him to the White House.” I guess the advertisements write themselves:

Dear America: You don’t need to apologize to Mitt. He already knows you’re sorry, and he forgives you. This one time.

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“He would be an outstanding president,” said Brian Kennedy, who was the chairman for Romney’s 2012 Iowa campaign and said he had spoken to several of the potential Republican candidates over the last few months. He declined to answer when asked if Romney had reached out to him over the last few days.

“I could certainly see myself doing that [backing Romney again]. But at this time, I’m uncommitted. We don’t know who the field is yet,” Kennedy added…

Mary Kramer, who was the chairman of George W. Bush’s Iowa campaign in 2000 and who was on Romney’s leadership team in the Hawkeye State in 2012, said, “I think he’s extremely qualified, but I will just wait and see.”…

“I think that is clearly something that is doable. The real question is the mood of the country,” said Anuzis, who said he decided recently to endorse Ted Cruz after Romney’s brother Scott, who lives in Michigan, assured Anuzis that Mitt Romney would not run in 2016. “There’s no doubt in mind that Mitt Romney would make a good president. The question is ‘would he be a good candidate’ and I’m honestly not sure about that.”

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[I]nterviews with more than two dozen Republican activists, elected officials and contributors around the country reveal little appetite for another Romney candidacy. Beyond his enthusiasts — a formidable constituency given that many are donors — opinions range from indifference to openly hostility…

“I would be surprised if he gets much traction,” said Mark Lundberg, chairman of the Sioux County Republican Party in Iowa…

Several Republicans interviewed this week, brought up another data point from 2012, which they said showed Mr. Romney’s inability to connect: In a national exit poll conducted by Edison Research, among voters who said the candidate quality that most mattered to them was “cares about people like me,” President Obama won 81 percent to Mr. Romney’s 18 percent…

“How does he define what he is trying to do besides the fact he just wants to be president?” asked Jim Dyke, a South Carolina-based Republican strategist, who is uncommitted. “You can say what you will about Jeb, but at least he can effectively communicate about policies that are going to have a material impact on people’s lives. Romney has proven he’s incapable of that.”

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While Mitt Romney is attempting to gin up enthusiasm among supporters for another run for the White House, one former donor is pouring cold water on the idea, encouraging other big money friends not to get behind the 2012 Republican presidential nominee.

“It isn’t just because we lost and just because our base didn’t show up,” conservative donor Randy Kendrick of Arizona said in an interview with The Daily Caller, discussing Romney’s defeat in the 2012 presidential election. “Those are pretty big reasons. But it’s because he couldn’t fight against the primary thing that motivates me and motivates millions of other Republicans: Obamacare.”…

“He could never be a strong opponent of Obamacare for obvious reasons,” Kendrick said of Romney in the 2012 election. “And our entire base was opposed to this federal takeover, and yet he couldn’t fight against that.”…

“I don’t know who the base is,” she said, “who the source of support for Romney is.”

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Romney may have seen some of the polls and focus groups showing independent voters (and some Republicans) are highly averse to another Bush in the White House — or another Clinton, for that matter.

Yet Jeb Bush seems equally convinced that Romney is not the man to prevent the election of Hillary Clinton…

Just a week ago, establishment Republicans were congratulating themselves on having an odds-on 2016 favorite in Bush — someone who could suppress the Tea Party and its roster of obstreperous populist upstarts. Party stalwarts were mentally reassembling the Bush team of money people and policy people. From there it would be paint-by-the-numbers, collect the nomination and sally forth to slay the dragon — or in this case the lady dragon, likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton…

Both he and Jeb Bush have a sense of mission inherited from their fathers (Romney’s was governor of Michigan and briefly a presidential aspirant in the 1960s). That is a personal burden that can bring men together. It is also an obsession that can set them on a collision course.

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Jeb Bush is Mitt Romney with a heart, a Mitt Romney who doesn’t shed his skin each time the environment changes. He can win the most viable national candidate race. He has the fewest edges, and the most obvious vulnerability (he’s a Bush), so voters know exactly what to expect…

Mitt Romney might have been elected president. He was close to being president. He’s been there. He knows how to run; he knows how to survive a GOP primary, and he’s human now, dammit. He’ll take the start of an economy recovery and kick it into high gear; he’ll fix the problems with ObamaCare. He’s got more conservative cred than he did when he first ran. And he’ll win the general, not with any tricks or extra charm, but simply because voters won’t want to elect Democrats to power anymore.

Chris Christie, Romney will argue, is scandal-plagued and too mean; Jeb Bush is a Bush who won’t survive the primaries.

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“A Bush can’t beat a Clinton,” another donor quotes the 2012 nominee as saying.

As the primary season heats up, this analysis has been echoed by others, who say that a Clinton-Bush matchup would boil down to a race between the peaceful, prosperous 1990s and the 2000s with its War on Terror and Great Recession—a comparison that the GOP wants to avoid…

“They have not done a lot to flush out the details of his candidacy,” said Tom Rath, a senior adviser to Romney in both his 2008 and 2012 campaigns, speaking of Bush. “His time as governor was quite a while ago. A substantial number of Republicans have never heard him deliver a speech. Mitt is a proven commodity.”…

“Mitt has shown his colors,” said one major fundraiser to Romney’s 2012 effort. “And as a campaigner he is totally shit.”

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Mr. Romney is a man of admirable personal character, but his political profile is, well, protean. He made the cardinal mistake of pandering to conservatives rather than offering a vision that would attract them. He claimed to be “severely conservative” and embraced “self-deportation” for illegal immigrants, a political killer. But he refused to break from his RomneyCare record in Massachusetts even though it undermined his criticism of ObamaCare. A third campaign would resurrect all of that political baggage—and videotape.

The businessman also failed on his own self-professed terms as a superior manager. His convention was the worst since George H.W. Bush ’s in 1992, focusing more on his biography than a message. This left him open to President Obama ’s barrage against his record at Bain Capital, which Mr. Romney failed to defend because that would have meant playing on Democratic turf, as his strategists liked to put it. The unanswered charges suppressed GOP turnout in key states like Ohio.

Mr. Romney’s campaign team was notable for its mediocrities, led by a strategist whose theory of the race was that voters had already rejected Mr. Obama so the challenger merely needed to seem like a safe alternative. He thus never laid out an economic narrative to counter Mr. Obama’s claim that he had saved the country from a GOP Depression and needed more time for his solutions to work…

Republicans are likely to have a far better field in 2016, so voters won’t lack for plausible Presidents. It’s hard to see what advantages Mr. Romney brings that the many potential first-time candidates who have succeeded as governors do not.

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Mr. Romney’s big problem in 2012 wasn’t among Tea Party supporters; it was among evangelicals. Mr. Romney performed significantly better among Tea Party supporters who weren’t evangelical than he did among evangelicals who weren’t Tea Party supporters…

But a successful challenge to Mr. Bush from the right would have to involve winning a lot of these voters, even though they have been Mr. Romney’s biggest weakness. There is no viable anti-establishment coalition that does not include large percentages of evangelical Christians. Mr. Romney — a Northern Mormon with a history of moderate politics — has not been very effective at winning them over

Oddly, Mr. Romney’s best chance to oust Mr. Bush ought to be in New Hampshire. It’s an honorary home state for Mr. Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, and he ran strongly there in 2008 and 2012. But because the Republican primary electorate in New Hampshire is not very conservative, it is not at all clear that Mr. Romney would be doing himself a favor in that state by positioning himself to the right of Mr. Bush. One wonders whether Mr. Romney’s position as a relatively conservative candidate may have cost him in 2008, when Mr. McCain, a self-described maverick, rallied to win New Hampshire.

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Reagan didn’t just get better at running for president. He was a much more impressive politician with far more accomplishments by 1980 than he had been in 1968.

Romney? Not so much…

As far as I can see, he has done exactly zero to enhance his credentials apart from having now developed extensive experience in running for president. If he has ever been an influential leader among Republicans on any policy position, I’ve clean forgotten about it.

More to the point, no one has rallied to Romney’s side other than his core supporters, and reporters are having no trouble finding 2012 supporters who are willing to distance themselves publicly from his third effort. And not only has no one dropped out of the race in the last week since Romney and Jeb Bush stepped up their efforts, other than the already bearded Paul Ryan, but Rand Paul, Chris Christie, Scott Walker and others are ramping up their own campaigns.

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As I’ve been saying for years, Romney has an authentic inauthenticity problem; he seems fake, but that’s actually him. Not only does he look like the picture that came with the frame, he talks like a 1920s college president. Maybe it speaks ill of America that voters put so much stock in empathy and authenticity, but they do.

It’s no secret that Romney took the loss hard. But there would be a great irony in thinking that the 59 million votes he garnered in 2012 indicate a base for him to build off of in 2016. Most of those voters voted at least as much against Obama as they did for Romney. And that’s exactly how the Romney campaign wanted it. “Our whole campaign is premised on the idea that this is a referendum on Obama,” Romney strategist Stuart Stevens admitted to the New York Times. Well, Romney nostalgia, too, is largely a referendum on Obama.

But Obama won’t be on the ticket in 2016. And the idea that a one-term Massachusetts governor, who hired Jonathan Gruber to help design his health-care plan, is just what the Republicans need to run against Hillary Clinton is odd, particularly when the GOP has a much more talented, and fresher, field than it did in 2012.

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The reason Romney is in the position he is — nationally known, a massive fundraising network — is because of his 2008 and 2012 campaigns. Those are the pluses of having run twice before. But, there are also significant minuses in having done so. Does Romney think either his Republican opponents or, potentially Hillary Clinton in a general election, are going to just let the whole “47 percent” thing drop? Or that the car elevator, “severely conservative” and the picture of him with money coming out of his suit jacket are going to disappear?

Um, they won’t. The second Romney declares — and, even now as he moves toward a candidacy — all of the things people didn’t like about him will start to creep back to the front of their minds. The image of him as an out-of-touch plutocrat, which the Obama team so effectively painted, will linger no matter what Romney says or does as a candidate. And, unlike in 2012 when he was seen as the de facto frontrunner due to his close-but-no-cigar bid in 2008, the logic (or lack thereof) for why he would choose to run again in 2016 would make him a puzzle in the eyes of many Republican primary voters. People don’t usually vote for puzzles.

There’s no question that Romney feels a call to service and believes that he is uniquely able to solve the problems of the GOP and the country at the moment. But, the assumption that he can pluck the good things from his past candidacies while wiping away — “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”-style — all the bad stuff from voters’ minds is a deeply flawed reading of how politics works. And it’s why it makes little sense for Romney to run again.

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