Former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has stormed back onto the political scene in a big way this month, reaching out to former mega-donors, reassembling the 'old team,' and meeting with fellow potential major candidates. And as poll after poll has shown, rank-and-file Republican Party members across the nation have taken notice.
A surprisingly solid 59% of Republicans say they'd like for the former nominee, who attracted just over 47% of the popular vote in his failed 2012 bid, to give it another go in 2016. Only 26% think he should sit it out. Romney consistently sports the highest favorability ratings of the potentially large field of Republicans candidates, at least where it counts - among the base. Last but not least, he leads comfortably in every national horserace survey of the GOP primary taken to date.
That final fact is somewhat unique in a historical context, and especially so when looking back over the last thirty years. Ex-presidential nominees frequently pop-up in the following cycle's primary polling. But it's much less frequent that they cast such a dominating presence over the rest of the field, so consistently.
In fact, looking back at ALL twenty-one ex-nominee's polling performance in the following cycle's presidential primary in the modern polling era, former presidential nominees can be said to fall into three tiers.
- Tier 1 - this group of former nominees had no trouble recapturing the party faithful's hearts and minds for the second time in a row following their presidential loss. Qualification for membership in this group requires the ex-nominee poll in first place in at least half of the following presidential primary surveys taken that include that candidates name. For example, because Mitt Romney has appeared in eight national 2016 GOP primary surveys to date, and has led in each, he would qualify for membership in this group. Other ex-nominees falling into this group are Al Gore in 2004, Richard Nixon in 1964, Adlai Stevenson in 1956, and Thomas Dewey in 1948.
- Tier 2 - this group of former nominees polled reasonably well in primary surveys taken after their presidential loss, almost always hitting double digits, even finding themselves at the summit of some random surveys. They fall short, however, of the polling status achieved by the failed nominees in the above group. Seven of the twenty-one ex-presidential nominees from 1936 to 2012 fall into this category.
- Tier 3 - ex-nominees in this group are defined either by their surprisingly shoddy, if not embarrassing polling performance in the following cycle's primary survey, or by their unwillingness to even entertain the idea of the presidency ever again, evidenced by their total exclusion from the following primary's polling. Nine of the twenty-one ex-presidential nominees from 1936 to 2012 fall into this category.