It was just starting to look like Mitt Romney was settling in for a quiet life as a onetime GOP nominee, spending time with his large, photogenic family and steering clear of politics, except for the occasional turn on the Sunday talk shows or appearance on behalf of a promising Republican politician during the 2014 midterm elections.
To those who inquired, he said he wasn't running for a third time. When the New York Times asked, he responded, ""Oh, no, no, no. No, no, no, no, no. No, no, no." But in another interview, he hedged, saying that circumstances could change. And apparently they did, when former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush announced he would actively explore a presidential bid, setting off a competition for the same donors Romney would need if he embarks on another White House run .
So a few weeks ago, Romney ensured his name would remain on the list of 2016 contenders, telling potential donors he is considering a third presidential bid.
What he's known for
Politics has always been in Romney's blood, even if he began his career in the private sector. His father, George Romney, served as governor of Michigan and ran unsuccessfully for president in 1968.
After completing his education, Romney went to work in management consulting at the Boston Consulting Group. Later, he co-founded private equity firm Bain Capital, and his work there buying and restructuring companies would subject him to scrutiny by both Democratic and Republican opponents during the 2012 campaign. He also served as CEO of the Salt Lake City Olympic Games Organizing Committee.
His first foray into politics came in 1994 with a failed campaign for the U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts against incumbent Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy. He returned to the private sector until 2002, when he ran successfully for governor of Massachusetts. One of his most well-known accomplishments there was a health care reform law that promised health insurance for all Massachusetts citizens, in part by creating a mandate that required people to purchase insurance. After President Obama cited it as a model for the creation of the Affordable Care Act, Romneycare became a major liability for him in his 2012 campaign against Obama.}
Romney failed in his bid to be the Republican nominee in 2008, coming in second to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in Iowa and Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, in New Hampshire. But he stayed in the race through early February before dropping out and endorsing McCain. One legacy of the 2008 campaign was the "Faith in America" speech he delivered at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas, where he addressed persistent questions about his Mormon faith in an address that mimicked the one former president John F. Kennedy had delivered about his own Catholic faith in 1960.
He performed better during the 2012 presidential campaign. Romney was declared the initial winner of the Iowa caucus before a recount showed a narrow loss to former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. His role in developing the Massachusetts health care law remained an issue, as did some more liberal positions he had taken while serving as governor of the state, and much of the Republican primary featured Romney beating back whichever of his GOP opponents was commanding the spotlight that week or month. He won the New Hampshire primary, but lost in South Carolina. A big win in the Florida primary helped cement his status as the likely GOP nominee, and he was able to outlast late surges from both Santorum and Gingrich.}
Ultimately, however, Romney proved unable to unseat Mr. Obama despite the still-weak economy and the president's relatively low favorability ratings. Perhaps the most damaging moment for his campaign came when a videotape surfaced from a closed-door fundraiser where Romney told the audience that the 47 percent of Americans who don't pay income taxes, "who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it," would automatically vote for Mr. Obama. He would later call the comments not "elegantly stated" but was unable to overcome the impression left that he didn't care about less fortunate Americans.
He ultimately lost the election, winning 47 percent of the popular vote and just 206 electoral votes (out of the 270 needed to win the presidency).
Where he stands on the issues
Economic policy: Romney struggled to project an image of someone who cared about lower-income Americans. During the primary, he said he was "not concerned about the very poor" because they had a social safety net. The "47 percent" remark near the end of the campaign seemed to cement that image.
Romney is already taking steps to address that weakness should he run again. In a speech to the Republican National Committee (RNC) in San Diego earlier this month, he told the GOP audience, "[w]e have to stand for helping lift people out of poverty, lifting people out of poverty."
CBS News Correspondent Nancy Cordes, who was in San Diego for the speech, reported that Romney said that only conservative principles like a focus on family formation and education could "end the scourge of poverty."
Foreign policy: Many of Romney's supporters have said that the spread of turmoil across the world, from the Russian intervention in Ukraine and the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have vindicated his criticism that Mr. Obama was a weak leader on foreign policy issues. At the RNC speech, he tied Obama's policies to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a potential Democratic nominee, and said they "are based on the premise that if we're friendly enough to other people and smile broadly enough...peace will break out."
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said on CNN over the weekend that Romney, "almost looked prophetic there talking about Russia and talking about the war on terror and those types of things" during the campaign.
Romney broadly advocates for a more muscular U.S. foreign policy than the one Mr. Obama has offered and believes the U.S. should be spending far more on the Pentagon, with at least 4 percent of gross domestic product going to defense. During the campaign, however, he was often better at criticizing the president than offering specifics on how exactly his own policies would differ.
Immigration: One of Romney's lowest moments of the GOP primary occurred when he labeled his plan to reduce the number of immigrants in the U.S. illegally as "self-deportation " -- the idea that his administration would not "round people up," but rather make life so difficult for undocumented immigrants in the U.S. that they would voluntarily return home.}
Later, he said he would replace Mr. Obama's move to defer deportation for young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children with his own long-term reforms that would grant green cards on a first-come, first-serve basis and give preference to the family members of citizens and legal permanent residents. He also pledged to raise some caps on immigration for certain countries and to streamline the temporary worker visa program, and he favors employment verification as a way of curbing illegal immigration.
Ultimately, Romney won just 27 percent of the Hispanic vote. Last year, he called Mr. Obama's move to shield millions of illegal immigrants from deportation "extra constitutional."
Same-sex marriage: Romney reaffirmed his opposition to same-sex marriage when Mr. Obama said he was "evolving" on the issue in 2012. "I do not favor marriage between people of the same gender, and I do not favor civil unions if they are identical to marriage other than by name," he said in an interview with a Denver television station that May. "My view is the domestic-partnership benefits, hospital visitation rights, and the like are appropriate but that the others are not."
On Meet the Press last year, he said that "ideal setting" for raising a child is one in which there is both a mother and their father and said he would not change the way marriage has "been defined for several thousand years." If gay couples want to live together, he said, "that's their right." He also said states, not courts, should be deciding whether to legalize same-sex marriage.
Why some Republicans might think twice
Romney's pronouncement that he was entertaining the possibility of another presidential bid was met with a fair amount of hostility this month from many Republicans.
Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of News Corps/21st Century Fox had one of the harshest assessments, calling Romney "a terrible candidate" in 2012. Others, including potential Republican candidates Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, have suggested it's time to move on.
"If we are going to be up against particularly Hillary Clinton, we have to offer a new fresh approach," Walker said at the RNC gathering. Paul told CBS News Political Director John Dickerson earlier this month that Romney simply couldn't attract enough people to win in 2012.
"I think a lot of Republicans are saying, 'We have got a serious problem with minorities, with women, without outreach to younger voters, with working class voters in particular in key states,'" Michael Gerson, a speechwriter for former President George W. Bush, said on "Face the Nation" last Sunday. "If those are the questions then Mitt Romney is not the answer."
Bobbie Kilberg, a longtime Republican fundraiser from Virginia who helped raise money for Romney in 2012, told CBS News she was surprised and disappointed by the backlash.
"I don't think anybody doubts, even among those naysayers, that he would be an excellent president. They just think he was not an excellent candidate," she said.
"If he chooses to run again he will do things differently," said Kilberg, who has not yet committed to a candidate for the 2016 race. "I think you will see a lot more of the personal Mitt and I think the American people will come to know him and his personal life story and his personal commitment to people in a way that perhaps the past campaign did not adequately demonstrate."
The opposition among the upper echelons of the party may be more pronounced than opposition among voters. The latest CBS News poll on potential 2016 candidates showed that 59 percent of Republicans would like to see Romney jump into the 2016 race, while only 26 percent believe he should stay out. That was the highest percentage support for jumping in the race of any GOP candidate in the survey, although at this early stage, name recognition tends to be the decisive factor.
Kilberg acknowledged that there will be a fierce competition for fundraisers and bundlers, the people who help organize and solicit donations, between Romney and two other potential candidates that represent the center-right of the party, Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Although she sees Romney having more overlap with donors who might give to Christie, both Romney and Bush have the advantage of having had time to get to know fundraisers by dint of their previous campaigns (or in Bush's case, his father and brother's networks).
"Jeb was very smart strategically in coming out before Christmas and he just accelerated the pressure on everyone else...to move their process forward as well," Kilberg said.