Gotta say, this JPod theory seems increasingly plausible.

Remember, says Charlie Gasparino in the clip below, Romney never said last week that he was sitting out 2016 come hell or high water. What he said was that it’s “unlikely” that he’ll run. Within an hour of that statement, Jake Tapper was on CNN crowing about the huge loophole Romney had left himself to get in the race later — an impressive bit of “Mitt 2016” trolling even by my lofty standards. It’s not trolling, though, says Gasparino: Allegedly, Romney himself is telling his allies that the word “unlikely” was chosen carefully, to leave himself a little wiggle room.

Which means, after flirting with a Plan B in which he’d jump in the race early and take the fight to Jeb Bush, he may be back to Plan A — step aside for now, give Jeb or Scott Walker or whoever a chance to win the nomination fair and square, and if the party ends up in a bitter, protracted primary fight between multiple candidates, graciously make himself available in the spring of 2016 to accept the nomination by acclamation as a compromise candidate. Is that scenario possible? Well, actually … yeah. Remember this post? Read it now if you missed it last week. There’s a decent chance that we’ll end up with at least a three-way fight deep into the primaries between Bush, Rand Paul and his base of libertarian stalwarts, and some Not Jeb/Not Rand center-right candidate, probably Scott Walker or Marco Rubio. We might even end up with a four-way race if social conservatives unite behind Ted Cruz. If that happens, not only will it all but guarantee that no candidate wins a clear majority of delegates before the convention, it may ensure that no candidate wins a clear majority of delegates in eight states, which RNC rules require in order to qualify for the nomination. If the party is hopelessly split and we end up with a floor fight in Cleveland, establishmentarians could dump the polarizing Bush and bring back Romney as a consensus choice whom the right might tolerate and who could raise $500 million overnight to neutralize the Clinton machine. In fact, I wonder if that’s why Romney has been so hostile to Bush’s candidacy so early. Political pros tend to chalk that up to the two men not liking each other, but Romney has a keen interest in making sure Bush doesn’t break from the pack. The more Jeb struggles, the more likely a brokered convention — and the slim possibility of an eleventh-hour Romney 2016 campaign — becomes.

But … how realistic is that really? Jeb Bush might not win a majority of delegates but it’s quite likely that he’ll end up in the top two. How do you tell a guy who’s spent hundreds of millions of dollars and waged war for months through 50 states and various territories against heavyweights like Walker that you need to cut him loose at the last second in favor of someone who spent the past 18 months on the sidelines after being crushed in the general election in 2012? Even if Bush has become disliked by the right, his own supporters will be so entrenched after so many months of political combat that you risk alienating centrists if you try to replace him at the last second with a retread like Romney. It’s not gonna happen. But the fact that Romney evidently thinks it might happen means the next year should be extra fun, as Team Mitt quietly angles to prop up Bush challengers like Walker behind the scenes in hopes of engineering that brokered convention after all.