It’s safe to say the general reaction to Mitt Romney’s overt movement towards another presidential campaign has been to take it very seriously. A notable dissenter is Jonathan Chait (with whom I was occasionally associated early in the 2012 cycle in disrespecting Romney’s odds then), who puts together a pretty extensive Case Against Mitt:

Why would Republicans, who grudgingly submitted to a Romney nomination in 2012 only after every other possibility had exhausted itself, give him another try when so many alternatives are available? What qualities would make a Romney candidacy more attractive to Republican votes in 2016 than it was in 2012?….

Eight years ago, John Kerry briefly considered another run for president, after also having failed to oust an incumbent despised by his own party’s base and mistaking the outpouring of commitment on his behalf as an expression of personal loyalty, rather than the partisan loyalty it actually was. Soon enough, Kerry came to his senses. Romney will, too.

Well, as someone who was on the periphery of Kerry-land in early 2007, I can report that most people around the 2004 Democratic nominee thought a 2008 run was a bad idea. You don’t get the sense this is the sort of advice Romney is hearing. Republicans really seem to have convinced themselves that the results of the midterms show 2012 was a fluke, and that rerunning that election with the same battle-hardened (and very rich) candidate against any Democrat will be a pretty good bet. I’m not saying Romney’s going to win the nomination, but it’s not as ludicrous an idea as Chait thinks it is, and if he runs it will mess up the strategies of any number of rivals and perhaps keep some of them out of the contest altogether.

I’d say the next test of Mitt’s seriousness is whether he makes a late decision to show up for Steve King’s candidate vetting party (officially known as the Iowa Freedom Summit) on January 24. Carson, Christie, Cruz, Huck, Perry, Santo, Walker and even Fiorina have confirmed they’ll be there. Maybe as the “titular leader of the Republican Party” (as the most recent presidential nominee used to be called) Mitt thinks it’s demeaning to show up for such scrums (Rand Paul won’t do them either). But King reportedly came pretty close to endorsing Mitt during the most heated period of the 2012 contest, and it would sure dispel doubts–perhaps even Chait’s–that Romney is serious.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.