Why so coy about 2012, Mitt Romney?

Mitt Romney's political strategy, for the moment, includes a lot of TV appearances, gentle words about Sarah Palin, and building a war chest. But he's cagey about a 2012 GOP presidential bid.

Donna Svennevik/ABC/AP
In this image, co-host Barbara Walters listens to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, during an appearance on 'The View,' Tuesday, Feb. 1, in New York.

A year ahead of the first Republican presidential primary, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s political strategy includes boosting his visibility, speaking softly about possible rival Sarah Palin, and carrying a big wallet.

On Tuesday, for example, Mr. Romney appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” CNN’s "Piers Morgan Tonight,” and “Late Night with David Letterman” on CBS. One news hook for the appearances is the release of the paperback edition of Romney’s book, “No Apology: The Case for American Greatness.” [Editor's note: The original paragraph mischaracterized Romney's book as new. The paperback edition is new.]

Romney, who lost a Republican primary struggle to Sen. John McCain in 2008, seemed to encourage a presidential bid by McCain running-mate Sarah Palin. On the Piers Morgan program he said, “She is an extraordinarily powerful and effective voice in our party … she’d be great in a primary process.”

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Later that evening, he made a return visit to the Letterman program in an appearance that seemed aimed in part at warming up Romney’s image as a buttoned-down, successful businessman. Romney, who normally is seen wearing impeccably tailored suits, was dressed for the segment in a sports coat, but without a tie. The spot was titled, “The Top Ten Things You Don’t Know about Mitt Romney.” The list included “Mitt is short for Mitt-hew” and “I’m the guy in the photo that comes with your picture frame.” [Editor's note: The original paragraph mistakenly recounted conversation from Romney's appearance on the Letterman show in March, without noting the statements were not made this week.]

To keep at least some aura of suspense about his plans, Romney has ducked questions about another presidential bid. He told Mr. Letterman he had “no plans for that at this point," but added, “I’ll keep the door open.” He told CNN’s Mr. Morgan that there “are things you’ve got to assess before you make a final decision.” He listed matters of health and the kind of support network “you’d like to have behind you.”

Romney has definitely paid attention to the financial portion of his support network. Beyond his own sizable fortune, Romney is the current leader among Republican candidates in fundraising, according to reports filed this week with the Federal Election Commission. His political action committee (PAC) Free and Strong America raised more than $5.5 million last year and ended 2010 with close to $800,000 on hand.

By contrast, Palin’s Sarah PAC took in $3.5 million and ended the year with about $1.3 million in the bank. In third position was former Minnesota Gov.Tim Pawlenty, who raised $2.1 million but finished the year with just $155,000 on hand.

In addition to his national PAC, Romney has created a significant network of state PAC affiliates. Funds from these organizations – in states like Michigan, New Hampshire, and South Carolina – brought his total political fundraising to $6.3 million last year. To most observers, that is a sign of someone who is serious about making another presidential bid.

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