GOP presidential candidate still dreams of 'Mitt 2016,' says Romney

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Romney Leads Establishment Against Trump

Since the emergence of Donald Trump as the GOP presidential front-runner, various sources close to Mitt Romney have floated the idea of the 2012 nominee reentering the current race to heroically save his party. Romney has repeatedly insisted that he's out for good this time, but now he claims that "Mitt 2016" fever is still very much alive -- to the point that even a current candidate has begged him not to rule out running. "Look," Romney told the Washington Post in late December, "I had one person who was running for president, and I won't give you the name ... called me and said, 'I hope you don't close the door. We may need you.' That's a person running for president. A candidate. A Republican. I'm not giving it a second thought."

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The quote is part of a lengthy Post retrospective on how the Republicans got themselves into their current presidential predicament, and Romney also notes that he totally called Jeb Bush's downfall a year ago. On January 22, Bush flew to Salt Lake City to meet with Romney. Both sides were tight-lipped about what was said during their "gentlemanly conversation," but eight days later, Romney announced he was dropping out of the 2016 race.

See photos of Romney's past campaigns for president:

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Mitt Romney's campaigns for president
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GOP presidential candidate still dreams of 'Mitt 2016,' says Romney
**FILE** Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks at a rally on the steps of the Statehouse in Boston, in this Sunday, Nov. 19, 2006 file photo, Romney's political record is relatively brief - four years as Massachusetts governor and two statewide campaigns - but that's enough for Brian Camenker to write a 28-page report that portrays Romney as sympathetic to gay rights and sexual behavior that clashes with his burnished image as a defender of traditional values. (AP Photo/Chitose Suzuki, File)
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney shakes hands with first graders from Mead Hall Episcopal School during a campaign swing through South Carolina as he stops to be the Keynote speaker at a Rotary club meeting Monday, Jan. 29, 2007, in Aiken, S.C. (AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)
Republican Mitt Romney meets with the media after addressing the Detroit Economic Club in Detroit, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2007. Romney used the first major policy speech of his fledgling presidential campaign to promote permanent tax cuts, portable health insurance and free and open markets. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney signs a poster for Alex Stroman, of Chester, S.C. Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2007, at Seawell's in Columbia, S.C. Romney visited South Carolina as part of his official campaign kickoff tour following his announcement Tuesday that he's seeking the Republican presidential nomination. (AP Photo/Perry Baker)
Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney holds one his granddaughter, Mia, 2, after speaking in Columbia, S.C. Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2007, as part of his official campaign kickoff tour. Romney visited South Carolina following his announcement Tuesday that he's seeking the Republican presidential nomination. (AP Photo/Perry Baker)
Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney talks to the nation's first presidential primary voters during a campaign stop at the Opera House in Derry, N.H., Tuesday, April 3, 2007.(AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Republican presidential hopeful, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks to a potential voter on a cellphone at his campaign headquarters in Boston Wednesday, May 16, 2007, one day after the latest GOP presidential debate, and amid a daylong effort by his campaign to enlist 24,000 new supporters. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney shakes hands during a campaign stop at Moulton's Market in Amherst, N.H., Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2007.(AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Presidential hopeful and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, left, kisses 6-month-old Bennett Covington as he poses for a picture with the baby and his mother, Liz Covington, Thursday, September 27, 2007 , during a campaign stop at an IHOP in Sacramento, Calif. (AP Rich Pedroncelli)
Republican presidential hopeful former Massachussets Gov. Mitt Romney speaks to local residents during a campaign stop Saturday, Dec. 15, 2007, in Humboldt, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Republican presidential hopeful, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, shakes hands with supporters at a campaign stop in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday, Jan. 17, 2008. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Republican presidential hopeful, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, waves to supports during a primary day campaign rally in Tampa, Fla., Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2008. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney shakes hands during a campaign rally, Friday, Sept. 7, 2012, in Orange City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
A woman working in the room where Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will speak election night is silhouetted against a lighted campaign sign near the stage at the Boston Convention Center in Boston, Monday, Nov. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks at a Florida campaign rally at Orlando Sanford International Airport, in Sanford, Fla., Monday, Nov. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney with his wife Ann greet supporters during a campaign rally at the International Exhibition Center in Cleveland, Sunday Nov. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign event at the Newport News International Airport, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Newport News, Va. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney reaches out to shake hands with supporters as he campaigns at Colorado Springs Municipal Airport in Colorado Springs, Col., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney carries Levi Vandenberg, five months, of Dover, N.H., after he picked him up from his mother and continued to walk down a ropeline of supporterrs as he campaigns at Portsmouth International Airport, in Newington, N.H., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. He later returned the baby to his mother. Ann Romney is seen at left. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney talks with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush as they fly on his campaign plane to Miami Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney greets supporters as he campaigns at the Pensacola Civic Center in Pensacola, Fla., Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, left, and vice presidential running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., wave to the crowd as fireworks go off during a campaign rally on Friday, Oct. 19, 2012 in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
President Barack Obama, right, and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney shake hands following their third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney shakes hands during a campaign event at Watson Truck and Supply, Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, in Hobbs, N.M. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney pauses during a campaign event at Horizontal Wireline Services on Tuesday, July 17, 2012 in Irwin, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney smiles as he addresses supporters at his Super Tuesday campaign rally in Boston, Tuesday, March 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney holds One-year-old Madison Busch during a campaign rally in Loveland, Colo., Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
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Now Romney confirms that Bush's perceived shortcomings were part of the reason he decided to run. He says he thought, "I like Jeb a lot, I think he'd be a great president, but felt he was unfairly but severely burdened by the W. years -- and when I say the W. years, it's not only what happened to the economy, but the tragedy in Iraq." He added, "Bush-versus-Clinton head-to-head would be too easy for the Democrats."

Romney reveals he shared these concerns with Bush at their January 22 meeting, per the Times:

[Romney said]: "Jeb, to be very honest, I think it's very hard for you to post up against Hillary Clinton and to separate yourself from the difficulty of the W. years and compare them with the Clinton years." He said Bush responded by saying that "he was going to make his campaign about the future, not about the past."

"I didn't say anything at that point," Romney recalled. "But as he left, I said to myself, 'Gosh, in my opinion, it's not going to be as easy to make that separation as I think he gives the impression it will be.' One of the few things I predicted that turned out to be true."

Romney says he ultimately decided that it was going to take "something unusual" to beat Clinton – i.e. not the same guy who ran last time – but he doesn't elaborate on how his chat with Bush played into that decision.

As for Bush, he doesn't seem thrilled about Romney building up the "Mitt 2016" fantasy at his expense. A Bush spokesman told the Post, "We don't talk about meetings that we consider to be private. We're honoring Governor Bush's commitment to Governor Romney to keep the meeting private. Governor Bush appreciates what Mitt did in waging an able campaign and leading our ticket."

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