Romney’s Political Stock Continues to Rise in Muddled GOP Field
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The Fiscal Times
August 20, 2014

Texas Gov. Rick Perry was smiling for his police booking mug shot in Austin on Tuesday. But regardless of whether his controversial felony indictments for alleged government abuse will ultimately help or hurt him politically, the case is bound to complicate his longshot effort to mount a second bid for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016.

In a similar vein, Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is still saddled with the fallout from last December’s “Bridgegate” scandal and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is enmeshed in complex allegations of federal campaign wrongdoing.

Related: How About This 2016 Matchup? Clinton vs. Romney

Meanwhile, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is viewed by many leaders within his party as too much of an isolationist with regard to Iraq and the Middle East, while former Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and former Florida governor Jeb Bush have alienated many in the GOP with their more progressive ideas on immigration reform.

For now, at least, the field of GOP presidential hopefuls is about as muddled as it can get – with one notable exception.

Despite his repeated insistence that he has run his last race, former Massachusetts governor and 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney continues to stir interest among many rank-and-file Republicans looking for a formidable figure to take on Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton in the 2016 presidential contest.

Some political analysts say this is fantasy - speculation totally out of the realm of possibility given Romney’s two previous unsuccessful bids for the White House and his inability to stir the passions of the party’s conservative base. Yet a new poll by Zogby Analytics published this week by Forbes shows Romney “outpolling his nearest rivals for the nomination by about two to one.”

According to the findings, Romney finishes first in a hypothetical 2016 GOP matchup with 20 percent of the vote, followed by Christie with 12 percent, Paul with 11 percent, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas with 9 percent, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee with 8 percent, and Bush with 6 percent.

Bringing up the rear are Walker with 4 percent, Rubio with 4 percent, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal with 3 percent and New Mexico Gov. Suzanna Martinez and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley with 1 percent each.

Related: Even in New Jersey, Hillary Would Trounce Christie

As memories begin to fade about Romney’s flaws as a politician and campaigner in the 2012 race and with Clinton’s shortcomings beginning to surface, as they did during her recent book tour, Romney’s strengths as a political leader and debater may begin to appeal more to the rank and file. Last March, 34 percent of Republicans said in a Washington Post-ABC News poll they could definitely back him in the 2016 GOP primary.

According to the latest polling by Zogby Analytics, Romney has strong support “across the board,” leading all other potential rivals among men (21 percent) and women (20 percent), moderates (27 percent), conservatives (19 percent), and evangelical Christians (23 percent).

“Romney’s showing is no doubt due a lot to name recognition,” wrote John Zogby, a veteran pollster and political analyst. “After all, he has been out campaigning for two full cycles already. But it also shows that he has not really hurt himself among the GOP base.”

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Washington Editor and D.C. Bureau Chief Eric Pianin is a veteran journalist who has covered the federal government, congressional budget and tax issues, and national politics. He spent over 25 years at The Washington Post.