Romney loyalists are deeply ambivalent about another run. A remarkable number of former Romney staff and supporters admire him tremendously and remain steadfastly loyal. They have told him as much on a number of occasions over the last few years. But now some worry that Romney has perhaps misinterpreted their heartfelt expressions of support as encouragement to run again in 2016. They still believe he would be a good president, but they do not think it will be possible for Romney to rid himself of 2012 baggage in order to get the clean start necessary to run a winning campaign.
The Bush family network isn't as strong as some believe. There has been much talk of the vaunted Bush political machine, which is said to give Jeb Bush a big advantage even before the 2016 race officially begins. Jeb Bush himself has been calling donors and has told some of them that he hopes they will again support "the family." But the fact is, it has been a while since the Bush machine was in operation here in Iowa. It was last up and running in 2004, for the re-election of George W. Bush, and last at work for the caucuses in 2000, for W's first run. For the 2016 race, that means the machine has been out of action for a long time. Many Bush donors from 2000 and 2004 became Romney donors in 2008 and 2012. They have conflicted loyalties, and not all of them will rejoin the family.York notes that Rick Perry has a slim chance. Another point about Perry: last time, much of his money came from Texas business interests eager to court the favor of the incumbent governor. Now that he is out of office, a lot of that money will evaporate.
Rick Santorum is in very bad shape. One would think the former Pennsylvania senator, as the (narrow) winner of the 2012 caucuses, would have a lot of standing for another race. He doesn't. Many Republicans believe Santorum's earlier success was the result of a set of peculiar circumstances involving a weak and fragmented 2012 field. They admire how hard he worked that year, traveling around Iowa with a thoroughness and intensity that no other candidate could match. But they don't see it happening again with a stronger field in 2016. And they don't see Santorum surviving a loss in the state he won before.