Ask Mitt Romney if he would run for president a third time, and he will deny it every which way.
“I’ve had my turn,” he told CNN.
“We’re so ready to watch the next person step up and take that nomination,” his wife told Fox News. “Oh, no, no, no. No, no, no, no, no. No, no, no,” Romney told The New York Times.
But in recent weeks, a strange thing has happened: Some supporters and donors, pollsters and pundits are starting to suggest — without irony — that the former Massachusetts governor run for president in 2016.
“Once a month, someone would e-mail or call and say he should run again,” said Ron Kaufman, a longtime Romney adviser. “Now I get it every day — from the grass roots, and from donors. I get it every day.”
Kaufman made clear that there was no behind-the-scenes maneuvering to persuade Romney to run again. A second Romney adviser said he was also approached frequently by former supporters and donors, asking him to persuade Romney to run again in 2016.
Those close to Romney say he is giving the talk little thought, and party operatives in key states and some of his former advisers say they cannot imagine a scenario in which he would run.
“He’s made it pretty clear he will strongly support whoever the 2016 nominee is,” Romney’s oldest son, Tagg, said in an e-mail to the Globe. “This isn’t something we are spending any time thinking about. Chatter is just chatter.”
And yet the former candidate who rarely gave interviews during the 2012 campaign and laid low for the year following his defeat is now suddenly everywhere.
There’s the new “MITT” documentary on Netflix, which was a well-received portrayal of the candidate and inner workings of his losing campaign.
He did a “slow jam” of the news with late-night comedian Jimmy Fallon, displaying a looseness and a wry humor he rarely let show in public. He showed up at the Super Bowl (“It’s great to . . . come in here and celebrate a great sport,” he said). He was recently on CNN discussing the Olympics, and on Fox News talking about health care.
And on Sunday he’ll be on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” his second appearance on the show in the past three months.
Romney’s public relations makeover and higher profile have come at a time when mainstream Republicans are searching for a strong party patriarch. Some party activists blanch at the prospect of a presidential field dominated by Tea Party movement favorites like Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky.0