Mitt Romney and his wife Ann are seen in this 1969 handout photo from the Romney for President campaign.
WASHINGTON – Mitt Romney wanted to go out on his terms.
The former Massachusetts governor and two-time presidential candidate pulled back from the brink of a third run only after determining that he could position himself as going out on top.
In a conference call with supporters that lasted only a few minutes and in which he took no questions, Romney talked at length about the most recent opinion polls showing him leading the huge field of potential Republican candidates for president.
“I know that early poll numbers move up and down a great deal during a campaign, but we would have no doubt started in a strong position. One poll out just today shows me gaining support and leading the next closest contender by nearly two to one. I also am leading in all of the four early states,” Romney said
“I am convinced that with the help of the people on this call, we could win the nomination,” Romney said.
Romney did not want to excuse himself from contention before testing the waters and seeing what the response of voters was in polling, and now he has done so.
“Two weeks ago, it would have looked like he got pushed out,” said a campaign adviser from the 2012 effort.
Many in the political world laughed at the idea that Romney would run again, and Romney was losing the battle for political staff and donors, sometimes badly. On Thursday David Kochel, who ran Romney’s Iowa campaign in 2012, was announced as going to work for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush as a national adviser. And political operatives who admired Romney expressed hope that he would decide not to run, for his own sake. Romney had built up good will with many in the party, but that would dissipate quickly as a primary campaign heated up. And even those who had worked for Romney believed he did not comprehend the way he would be reduced to tatters in a primary.
Nonetheless, Romney, his family and his close advisers all believed firmly that he was the right man for the job in 2012 and remained so now.
“I am convinced that we could win the nomination but fully realize it would have been a difficult test and a hard fight,” Romney said in prepared remarks on a conference call with supporters.
With the polling data especially being what it is, Romney can exit the scene saying he walked away from a likely victory.
“It’s the right thing to do at the right time,” said the former Romney aide.
And Romney virtually shut the door on any talk of him being drafted into the campaign at a later time.
“I’ve been asked, and will certainly be asked again, if there are any circumstances whatsoever that might develop that could change my mind. That seems unlikely. Accordingly, I’m not organizing a PAC or taking donations; I’m not hiring a campaign team,” he said.
He wants this to be his swan song, going out on a high note.