State of the 2016 Race

One of the questions dominating the political class lately is: Why is Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyDem leaders avert censure vote against Steve King GOP reasserts NATO support after report on Trump’s wavering House vote fails to quell storm surrounding Steve King MORE even thinking of running yet again in 2016?

The answers are really quite simple:

1. All losing candidates continuously chafe over their loss. They re-run their campaign endlessly as they toss and turn through dozens of sleepless nights. They realize all the mistakes they made and they wish they could erase or correct those mistakes.

2. Not a day goes by that Romney isn't walking through an airport or hotel lobby and people rush up to him and say, "Oh, how we wish you had won that election" or "We'd be so much better off if you were in the Oval Office." This is heady stuff — and very flattering, too — and over these two years it clearly has made this very competitive, very successful-at-everything-else-he-has-ever-done man decide that he ought to take another look at running in 2016 — despite denials that he would ever run again.

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3. On paper, at least, he sees a clear path to winning the nomination and the general election. That path is simple, too: In a multi-candidate GOP field, all Romney needs is approximately 22 to 26 percent in Iowa — and then he needs to win New Hampshire, where he lives and was the next-door governor. Currently, he leads in Iowa by 13 to 24 percentage points over his next closest competitor; in New Hampshire, he is way ahead of the field.

4. History shows us that if the same candidate wins both Iowa and New Hampshire, then he will be his party's nominee. Period.

5. Romney then believes that he could and would win in the general election because the country will not want a "third Obama term" — which is an assumption that Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDershowitz to The Atlantic: Do not violate Constitution to safeguard it Why Joe Biden (or any moderate) cannot be nominated GOP Rep. Tom Marino resigns from Congress MORE will be the Democratic nominee and thus seen as part of Team Obama. There is much to critique in this part of Romney's analysis. His own negatives are still extant. The "47 percent" and "binders of women" comments may be momentarily forgotten, but they will be brought back with a vengeance. And Romney's own political acumen is a weak point for him, and not something he can correct. Let's remember that he — and Karl Rove — were the last two people on Election Night 2012 to still believe Romney was going to win. (The hosts of "Political Insiders" had been showing for months why Romney would not win.)

6. Yes, some of Romney's current good numbers are name identification; but not all. The GOP primary- and caucus-goers and voters by now — after two previous campaigns — do know Romney. And a certain solid slice of them as of today would vote for him to be the nominee again — despite what the inside-the-Beltway self-elected experts say.

7. What really helps Romney is the make-up of the rest of the GOP field so far: Former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-Fla.), his main rival for establishment support and money, is not catching on with primary voters. There is a palpable "Bush fatigue," even inside the GOP. And Bush has decided to run a quasi-McCainesque campaign, where he purposefully antagonizes the right over immigration and Common Core.

Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.), his other establishment rival, is sinking in the polls. Even in his home state, he is underwater, with a higher disapproval than approval rating. Why? Because he wears badly. In this 24/7 news cycle environment, his style is entertaining the first or second time you see it; but over a sustained period of time it is too heavy-handed (no pun intended) to last.

8. The one worry Romney should have is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), the only current candidate who has one foot in the Tea Party camp and one foot in the establishment camp. Walker has the potential to rise up and supplant even Romney as an electable candidate with executive experience.

9. The strange thing about this race is the early movement — in other words, we are one year before Iowa and the race is alive with candidates rising and falling in the polls almost as if the actually voting were mere weeks or days away. There is genuine volatility in this contest because — as of now — no one really likes any of these candidates with any passion.

10. Years ago — in the age of a President Nixon or a Reagan — there was a large section of voters who lived or died over "their guy" — or it was said their supporters would "crawl over crushed glass" to help them. And there was also a group of "haters" of a Nixon or a Reagan who genuinely detested those two leaders. But today that passion is not yet evident in the GOP race; in the Democratic race there might be that passion for Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenOn The Money: Shutdown Day 27 | Trump fires back at Pelosi by canceling her foreign travel | Dems blast 'petty' move | Trump also cancels delegation to Davos | House votes to disapprove of Trump lifting Russia sanction Group aiming to draft Beto O’Rourke unveils first 2020 video The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Day 27 of the shutdown | Cohen reportedly paid company to rig online polls, boost his own image | Atlantic publishes ‘Impeach Donald Trump’ cover story MORE (D-Mass.), but more on her in another, future "State of the 2016 Race" column.

11. For some reason, I have the feeling that by September of this year, we will be talking about other candidates — not Romney or Bush — and that by a year from now, this race will look totally different — perhaps with a frontrunner no one is even yet aware of yet.

Former Rep. LeBoutillier (R-N.Y.) is the co-host of "Political Insiders" on Fox News channel, Sunday nights at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. He will be writing weekly pieces in the Contributors section on the "State of the 2016 Race."