Very few reporters know Mitt Romney (R-Mass.) better than the AP's Glen Johnson. Johnson has covered the Massachusetts State House for years and was the AP's man on Romney's plane during his 2008 presidential run.

So, it is worth reading his latest on how the former governor is somewhat covertly laying the foundation for a 2012 presidential run. Romney, Johnson notes, is "building toward a 2012 White House campaign by judiciously engaging and disengaging with the national debate."

Johnson writes:
On Tuesday, he's in Chicago to speak at a fundraiser for a prospective state treasurer candidate. On Wednesday, he's in Washington to headline a fundraiser for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. On Thursday, he's again the keynote speaker at a fundraising dinner for Republicans in New York City.

After that, he's heading back to his oceanfront home in La Jolla, Calif., to continue writing newspaper columns and a political book. Based on the '60s tome "The American Challenge" by Frenchman Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber, it will be aimed at shaking American economic and political complacency, he said.

Romney's also supervising the sale of houses he owns in Massachusetts and Utah, the type of excess real estate that brought ridicule to John McCain last fall. And his political action committee is seeding money to candidates across the country.

Johnson also wisely notes that the "dearth of a clear leader among Republicans, as well as Romney's work as a turnaround artist, have put him in the top tier of potential 2012 GOP candidates."

President Obama's plan for the auto industry, rolled out in the last couple days, has provided Romney another avenue to re-enter the national dialogue. On Tuesday, Romney, who has long argued for letting the auto industry go bankrupt, praised Obama's plan in an interview on CNN.

So is Romney the GOP's 2012 frontrunner right now? The comments section awaits below...

jeremy.jacobs@thehill.com