How Mitt Romney backed down after saying, 'I want to be president'

On Sunday, The Washington Post published some of the backstory on former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s (R) decision not to run for president in 2016.

In a massive, year-end summation of the presidential race so far, the 2012 Republican nominee surprised his inner circle at one point last January by declaring that he was seriously considering the race.

“I want to be president,” Romney reportedly told the group then.

And as he looked at the polling data, Romney apparently found evidence that he could win.

“It’s like, ‘Wow. Wow.’ That’s not a bad place to start from,” Romney told The Post of his thinking at the time.

However, Romney felt a little boxed out by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), who had already announced his exploration of a campaign and was aggressively fundraising for it.

“This wasn’t going to happen by a claim of some kind or other people having a difficult time getting traction and then people turning to me and asking me to run,” Romney recalled during a late-December interview with The Post.

He continued: “If I wanted to be president, it was a decision I had to make. And Jeb, I think very wisely, had begun raising money and getting things started early on, so the time frame to make that decision was earlier than I might have thought.”

Romney said he was concerned about Bush’s electability. He told the newspaper that he believed in the conventional wisdom at the time, which was that Bush was the Republican front-runner. But Romney said he thought former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would use Bush’s brother, former President George W. Bush, to bring him down in the general election.

“I like Jeb a lot, I think he’d be a great president, but felt he was unfairly but severely burdened by the W. years — and when I say the W. years, it’s not only what happened to the economy, but the tragedy in Iraq,” Romney said of his thinking at the time. “A Bush-versus-Clinton head-to-head would be too easy for the Democrats.”

Romney said he even discussed the issue with Jeb Bush, who was apparently a lot more optimistic than Romney about his ability to separate himself from his brother.

“I didn’t say anything at that point,” Romney said of the meeting. “But as he left, I said to myself, ‘Gosh, in my opinion, it’s not going to be as easy to make that separation as I think he gives the impression it will be.’ One of the few things I predicted that turned out to be true.”

Of course, Romney ultimately decided against a third run for the White House. After an intense media firestorm over his possible entry into the race, Romney announced his decision at the end of last January.

Romney told The Post he simply believed that other Republican candidates would be better positioned to defeat Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, in 2016.

“It’s going to take something unusual, something catching lightning in a jar to beat [Clinton], and the guy who ran before isn’t very likely to catch lightning in a jar,” he said. “I’m too well known. I’m too well defined.”

Check out the full Washington Post recap on the 2016 presidential race >

NOW WATCH: Jerry Seinfeld interviewed President Obama and it was hilarious

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.