Romney to declare intentions today for 2016 presidential race

The big moment will come at 11 am in a conference call with supporters, according to an e-mail that went out late last night. Why now? David Drucker argues that the competition for campaign talent in a crowded field makes it necessary to decide soon:

Romney made clear that he was thinking about a third presidential bid in early January and asked many who actively backed his last campaign to hold off from joining other 2016 contenders until he had made a decision on whether to run again. Not everyone honored that request, but many did.

However, Romney probably had two more weeks at most before alumni from his 2012 campaign started to move off the sidelines and sign on with other candidates. That may explain, at least in part, the timing of Friday morning’s conference call.

That process bit Romney yesterday, when David Kochel from his 2008 and 2012 campaigns took a job as Jeb Bush’s campaign manager. Reports arose that more of his alumni were beginning to look for greener pastures, particularly with Team Bush, and so it’s no surprise that Romney has been forced to make a call right now rather than wait for March or April.

Is there any doubt about what the decision will be? Over the last twenty-four hours, Romney has taken public swipes at both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. He attacked Hillary for her earlier remarks on job creation, echoing a 2012 campaign theme:

Republican Mitt Romney, who is considering another bid for president, took a swipe at Clinton’s suggestion to voters that “corporations and businesses” don’t create jobs when he spoke in Starkville, Mississippi, last night.

“How can Secretary Clinton provide opportunity for all if she doesn’t know where jobs come from in the first place?” said Romney, who battled similar charges due to his wealth in his earlier campaigns. Clinton later revised her remarks by saying she meant that tax breaks that reward businesses for moving operations overseas don’t create jobs in the U.S.

Romney went after Obama on poverty after the President scoffed at his discussion of the topic:

That doesn’t sound like someone about to retire to the sidelines for the rest of this cycle. Yesterday afternoon, before the conference call was announced, Mark Halperin reported on the looming decision for Romney and the factors that would play into it. It sounded as though Romney only needed to push the button for launch:

The main rationale on the “go” side is Mitt and Ann Romney’s strongly held conviction that no one in the current field would make a better president. Critics in both parties and the press may scoff at this view, but the Romneys believe it to their core and thus feel Mitt has an obligation to his country to once again shoulder the mantle. Following his crushing defeat in 2012, Romney has deemed Obama’s second term an utter failure, particularly on issues of national security and the domestic economy. Furthermore, those in Romney’s orbit are convinced that Mitt is not just best qualified, but almost uniquely qualified to turn around the nation and help guide the world to safer pastures. The Romneys consider this assessment a clear-eyed, rational analysis of his skills as a manager and a leader, augmented by the sense of duty he was raised with in the Mormon faith.

The second factor driving Romney towards another run, say those familiar with his thinking, is a host of emphatically encouraging poll results. There is ample public polling that suggests leads in the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada, as well as nationally. But Romney also has been briefed on what one Republican source describes as a massive, rolling private polling project recently conducted by a wealthy GOP contributor who shelled out his own money to determine which Republican has the best chance of winning the nomination.

The data, collected over an extended period of time in the first twenty states scheduled to hold caucuses and primaries in 2016, shows Romney with a huge lead across the board, and significantly better favorable/unfavorable ratings than the rest of the large potential field. The other prospects who fare well in the research are Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Maryland physician Ben Carson. The source says that after Romney publically [sic] expressed an interest in seeking the nomination, his standing in the polls improved. Romney World discounts the notion that these leads are based simply on name recognition.

Also pressing Romney forward: the sense that he can perform better in 2016 than he did in 2008 and 2012. Romney believes that if he can convince just a few more voters that he “cares about people” like them he will hold the electoral votes he won last time, while capturing additional states such as Florida, Ohio, Virginia, New Hampshire, and perhaps others. Some members of his 2012 inner circle criticized his decision to remain modest about his decades of work as a lay minister in the Mormon Church, brushing aside scads of earnest testimony from those whose lives he improved through service and charity. In the last campaign, that portrait was briefly sketched on the final day of the nominating convention in Tampa, only to be overwhelmed by the madcap appearance of Clint Eastwood, and further scarred by relentless efforts of the Obama team and its allies to portray Romney as heartless and out of touch with ordinary Americans. This cycle, Romney’s history of ardent community service would be placed front and center.

Set against these rationales are two arguments — the toll it will take on the Romneys, and the extension of that damage in a long, tough GOP primary while Hillary coasts on the other side. Both of those factors were in play in the last cycle too, and it didn’t discourage Romney from getting into his second race. There’s not much more damage to be done after getting the brunt of a highly personal opposition campaign in the 2012 cycle, and Hillary’s got too many connections to Wall Street to make those attacks effective again.

It’s possible that Romney will just decide that he’s had enough and hang up the gloves in an hour or so. Don’t bet on it.

Update: The Daily Beast’s sources say … it’s on. Halperin’s not so sure:

Update, for purely historical purposes: Romney chose not to run. Allahpundit has more analysis in this post.