In the conversations, Romney has said he is intent on running to the right of Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor who also is working aggressively to court donors and other party establishment figures for a 2016 bid.
As strategies for doomed campaigns go, I guess this makes as much sense as anything else. Romney has evidently forgotten that he already tried this approach in 2008, and he succeeded mainly in getting all of the other candidates to hate him. Back then, Romney was a famously recent convert to almost every conservative position he then professed to hold, but went out of his way to attack the records of other candidates for their real or imagined deviations from whatever the movement conservative line at the time happened to be. The absurdity of Romney of all people lecturing other candidates on their insufficient conservatism reflected the extent of his phoniness and showed everyone his desperate desire to be accepted by conservative voters. In this cycle, the desperation and phoniness will be even more obvious.
This time around there will be many more viable conservative alternatives to Romney than there were the last two cycles, and voters that find Bush insufficiently conservative on this or that issue will have many candidates not named Romney to choose from. Meanwhile, Romney’s most likely supporters are “somewhat conservative” and moderate voters that couldn’t care less about Bush’s immigration and education views, so attacking Bush from the right on these issues will leave them cold and offer them no incentive to prefer Romney to Bush. The good news of a Romney run for the other candidates is that it will siphon away some support from Bush in early states and prevent Bush from gaining much early momentum. That makes a long, drawn-out nomination contest more likely than it would have been if Romney had wisely stayed out of the race. Romney’s ego trip makes it slightly more likely that an insurgent Republican candidate will come away with the nomination for the first time in decades.