Mitt Romney Will Not Run For President in 2016, But He May be King(maker)

Romney Will Be The Big Get in 2016

Mitt Romney speaks about his economics platform. Whitney Curtis, Getty Images News

Mitt Romney officially ended his 2-month flirtation with a third run at the Presidency, but he may have emerged as the most influential non-candidate of the cycle. He might even end up deciding who the eventual nominee is.

Sorry About That, Jeb

Romney's sudden interest in a 2016 run did a pretty smash-up job of blunting the momentum Jeb Bush had hoped to gain after launching his leadership PAC in December, 2014.

Jeb quickly rose to the top of the early-state polls, but was beaten back by Mitt's sudden and "serious" interest. After showing interest, Romney topped every poll and his favorables among Republicans were sky high. As a result of the non-run run, we actually learned quite a few things about the 2016 presidential race from Mitt's non-run.

First, we learn that the establishment is decidedly on Team Jeb. They were noticeably not-so-thrilled that Mitt Romney was considering another run and possibly upsetting their precious chosen-one, next-in-line system. Romney's non-entrance also opens the door for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie who, unlike Jeb, at least seems interested in wooing conservative voters. With Christie being the less-establishment of the two, would conservatives help Christie knock out Jeb in New Hampshire? For those who thought that Romney and Jeb were on the same establishment team, his brief teaser run proved otherwise.

The New Sarah Palin

After losing the 2008 election, John McCain faded back into the US Senate and nobody cared much about what he had to say or who he liked for this or that office. Interest in him running against Obama again in 2012 was non-existent. Instead, it was VP nominee Sarah Palin who spent the next two election cycles (2010 and 2012) being the most influential person in Republican politics.

Deb Fischer, Ted Cruz, and Nikki Haley were just a few of the many underdog candidates that Palin helped secure party nominations over establishment recruits. In 2014, the most prized endorsements seemed to come from Mitt Romney as he picked one winner after the next. (His endorsements were decidedly a mixed bag. He didn't often go for underdogs, but occasionally went with the non-establishment choice.)

The reaction to a potential run by Romney was also quite similar to Sarah Palin's 2011 "bus tour" that had reporters and pundits chasing leads and launching wild theories. He injected himself into the race and ultimately cemented his status as Mr. Relevant. Immediately after announcing he would not run for President, the "praise" suddenly started pouring in from would--have-been competitors on how great and wonderful Romney is. We are guessing Rand Paul is reconsidering his decision to post an unfortunate picture of Romney, Hillary, and Jeb on Twitter under and labeling the candidates as "things to run from." (it's okay, Romney likely wouldn't have endorsed him anyway.)

Romney: Back Someone New

So, how will Romney use his influence in 2016? We think he will endorse someone, that it will not be the establishment's preferred pick, and that it will make a difference.

His announcement might give us a hint. It seems he narrows down the list quite a bit:

I believe that one of our next generation of Republican leaders, one who may not be as well known as I am today, one who has not yet taken their message across the country, one who is just getting started, may well emerge as being better able to defeat the Democrat nominee. In fact, I expect and hope that to be the case.

Romney is acknowledging what (most of us) know to be true: The country and the Republican Party has moved on and voters are eagerly awaiting the next generation of leaders to take over. He's jabbing himself a little bit as old news. But he's taking Democrats Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden and Republicans Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum with him. It sounds like he is not all that interested in anyone who has run for President before.

Rand Paul is an unlikely choice given the severe differences of opinion on foreign policy. The best bets are Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, or US Senator Marco Rubio from Florida. He will likely end up backing whichever of the three candidates ends up with the best shot at stopping Jeb Bush in hopes to "push" the candidate over the top. While his endorsement plans are a bit of speculation, one thing is certain: The Mitt Romney 2016 Sweepstakes are underway. Who will win?