SAN DIEGO -- In sunny San Diego, the forecast for a Mitt Romney White House run is likely with a chance of humiliation.
The GOP leaders gathered at the Republican National Committee's Winter Meeting say they don't think Romney, who will speak Friday night, would publicly mull a third bid unless he had already made up his mind.
"I think it's good for our party," Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee. "There's intrigue, there's some drama."
"What did you tell him?" I asked Priebus.
"I said to pray about it," he answered. "And to talk to people and see what the field looks like."
That's not casual advice. Romney would face a far tougher GOP primary now than he did last time -- when the field included just two sitting members of congress and one sitting governor.
This time, Romney would be going up against as many as four sitting senators and four sitting governors, including Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who told this gathering it's time to turn the page.
"If we are going to be up against particularly Hillary Clinton, we have to offer a new fresh approach," said Walker.
Conservative editorials have largely agreed. The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin said of Romney, "he is still the very rich guy lacking the common touch."
Whoever runs, RNC officials announced Friday, they will not be subjected to the 20 debates that gave candidates too many opportunities to slip up in 2012.
This time, there will between nine and 12 sanctioned debates, starting in Ohio this August. Those debate stages could be very crowded. When we ask folks here how many hopefuls seem serious about actually running, the answer we keep getting is: almost all of them.
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