Still, his team, ever loyal to the man they affectionately called “the Guv,” were in agreement that they would make it work if he wanted to gas up the Rambler for one more ride.

“The takeaway was, there is enough wood here to build a fire,” said another close Romney adviser who joined the meeting. “We thought it was was possible. But it would be hard. Last time we had all the winds at our back and this would have been difficult, but absolutely doable. Look, if people like Rick Santorum can get in, then it’s a no brainer that the governor could have done it, and done it well.”

Said the adviser: “The polls had him up. That was residual name ID. But he can’t carry that for a year. It would have been a fight.”