Friday , March 28, 2014 - 12:25 PM
In one memorable scene from the documentary film chronicling his failed presidential campaigns, Mitt Romney raises his hand and makes an "L" with his fingers over his forehead. "Loser for life," he tells a room of donors, astutely describing the fate of presidential nominees who don't make it to the White House. "We just brutalize whoever loses."
And so it happened to Romney in November 2012: He tended his wounds in the seclusion of his San Diego beach home; he was spotted looking disheveled and pumping his own gas; he ordered Thanksgiving dinner from Boston Market.
Yet now, more than a year later, Romney is enjoying a warm moment in the spotlight. The reviews from "MITT," the Netflix documentary that depicts Romney as honorable and fun-loving, have been overwhelmingly favorable. He's been a regular on television news shows offering his assessments of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, with Sochi's harried preparations serving as a contrast to the well-executed Games that Romney led in Salt Lake City in 2002.
There's even chatter among some GOP donors and supporters about a Romney 2016 campaign, as far-fetched as it might sound. After all, they say, Ronald Reagan didn't get elected president until his third try.
Romney pooh-poohs such speculation. In an interview with The Washington Post at last month's Sundance Film Festival premiere of "MITT," Romney said he would "absolutely not" run for president again. "This is a time for somebody else to carry the torch because I think they stand a better chance of winning," Romney said. "This is about the country; this is not about me."
And in an interview with The New York Times on the same day, Romney effectively slammed that door shut: "Oh, no, no, no. No, no, no, no, no. No, no, no."
Romney is positioning himself to hold influence within the Republican Party's establishment as an elder statesman. He promotes a long list of prospective 2016 candidates at every opportunity. And he is planning to summon major donors, policy wonks, business leaders and politicians to join him this summer in Park City, Utah, for his second annual policy retreat.
To Romney's most loyal friends, the favorable attention he is receiving now is evidence of "buyer's remorse." On a range of issues — from growing tensions between the United States and Russia to problems implementing the health care law — they say the outcomes Romney darkly predicted on the campaign trail in 2012 are coming true.
"The public doesn't think the country's going in the right direction, and I think they're thinking the country would be going in a different direction if Mitt was a part of it," said Ron Kaufman, a friend and senior campaign adviser to Romney.
That may or may not be correct. In 2012, after a brutal campaign in which President Barack Obama and Romney offered two starkly different directions for the country, the nation's voters chose Obama decisively.
It remains to be seen whether the current moment helps to repair Romney's reputation, but it ensures that his dramatic loss on Election Night 2012 will not be his last chapter.
"People are listening to him in a way that perhaps they didn't listen to him during the campaign," Kaufman said. "For most of us who have been around Mitt and Ann all these years, it's great. I wish this was February of 2012, but so be it. It's terrific."
See Also: Romney more popular than Obama
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