But almost immediately after his defeat, Romney retreated to the privacy of his California home.
He surfaced in the national media in recent months only in photographs such as those showing him pumping gas, enjoying a day out with his family at Disneyland and shopping at Costco.
In his goodbye message to staffers at his Boston headquarters last November, Romney promised to remain an active voice in the party. Four months later, former aides say that he’s more likely to play a quieter role focused on fundraising, while using his status to help elevate issues from time to time.
“We were on a roller coaster, exciting and thrilling, ups and downs. But the ride ends. And then you get off,” Romney told “Fox News Sunday” in an interview taped Thursday in California. “And it’s not like, ‘Oh, can’t we be on a roller coaster the rest of our life?’ It’s like, ‘No, the ride’s over.’”
Several Republican governors, already jockeying to fill a leadership vacuum in an evolving GOP, offered reserved responses when asked during last weekend’s meeting of the National Governors Association about Romney’s re-emergence.
“We need as many voices for conservative reform and leadership as possible,” said Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, among those Republicans thought to be weighing a 2016 presidential bid. “I welcome Gov. Romney and anybody else who will help to make that message and help to take that fight.”
Another possible GOP presidential contender, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, said “the jury’s out” as to what role Romney could play.
Gov. Nikki Haley, R-S.C., was more enthusiastic. She said Romney has “a power in his voice that we want to see continue.”
There is little updated polling on Romney’s popularity, but a Bloomberg poll last December found that just 30 percent of those surveyed rated him as excellent or good to help the Republican Party figure out how to win more races, including the presidency.
Some Republicans suggest that Romney’s greatest value to his party may be his vast fundraising network. His last presidential campaign raised more than $446 million.