Mr. Romney’s indication in New York last week that he may run in 2016 has set off excitement among his loyalists in the Republican donor class and assurances from his consultants that he can bring a different dimension to the campaign this time.
But interviews with more than two dozen Republican activists, elected officials and contributors around the country reveal little appetite for another Romney candidacy. Beyond his enthusiasts — a formidable constituency given that many are donors — opinions range from indifference to openly hostility.
Some party leaders are still angry about the former venture capitalist’s struggles to fend off the inevitable attacks on his business background, his awkward demeanor, and his inability to connect with working-class and minority voters. While political circumstances change between campaign cycles, Mr. Romney’s vulnerabilities, they say, are a constant.
“He got defined early, after he got through the nomination process, and they spent a lot of money to define him,” said Senator John Thune, Republican of South Dakota, who praised Mr. Romney’s passion and sense of purpose. “And those issues are still there. That doesn’t change, and that narrative is still out there.”
Nearly without fail, Republicans call Mr. Romney a decent man, and in public they prefer to speak delicately about him. But beyond the ritual accolades there is an unmistakable weariness, and in private, their criticism of him can be fierce.