Mitt Romney failed in two bids for the presidency and has been adamant that he isn’t about to embark on a third. But could that be changing?

According to a CBS News report, the former Massachusetts governor is the “Republican man in demand” ahead of the November elections:

The twice-defeated White House contender is in the midst of a busy midterm campaign schedule, covering seven states and nearly 6,000 miles in five days to raise money and energy for Republican midterm candidates from Georgia to Colorado.

That has also sparked discussion that Romney might be gearing up for another go at the White House, in part because the field seems so big and unimpressive.

“There’s a vacuum,” a major Republican donor, John Jordan, told CBS. “When there’s 10 people in a possible presidential field, it’s difficult for anyone to look presidential. None of these figures is overly compelling.”

For most of the past two years since his resounding defeat to President Barack Obama on election night in 2012, Romney has tried to definitively shut the door on another campaign. But that once-certain tone has shifted over the past few months, with the latest twist coming in a New York Times Magazine interview this week:

Romney, for his part, is noticeably playing along. He recently told a radio host that he was not planning on running for president but allowed that “circumstances can change.” A recent column by the conservative pundit Byron York noted that Romney had kept in close contact with many of his advisers and aides. As we spoke, Romney compared the barrage of 2016-related questions to a scene in the film “Dumb and Dumber.” After Jim Carrey’s character is flatly rejected by Lauren Holly, she tells him that there’s a one-in-a-million chance she would change her mind. “So,” Romney told me, embodying the character, “Jim Carrey says, ‘You’re telling me there’s a chance.’ ”

This was the obvious opening for me to ask if there was a chance. Romney’s response was decidedly meta — “I have nothing to add to the story” — but he then fell into the practiced political parlance of nondenial. “We’ve got a lot of people looking at the race,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”

The Washington Post has a handy timeline of Mitt Romney’s denials since 2012, pointing to August 26 of this year as the moment when his definitive “no” became less definitive. It was on that day that he told conservative radio personality Hugh Hewitt:

Someone else has a better chance than I do. And that’s what we believe, and that’s why I’m not running, and you know, circumstances can change, but I’m just not going to let my head go there.

And then there was this quirk on Romney’s recent Utah voter registration form: he declined to choose a political party affiliation.

Mitt Romney voter registration

Could this be a forward-thinking political move to shift away from the much-maligned two-party system ahead of the 2016 election? Does Romney just want to stay politically relevant? Or is it all meaningless?

It will be a while before we know whether “Mitt Romney 2016” is a real possibility or just a pipe dream among some Republicans, but Romney himself doesn’t appear willing to kill the renewed speculation just yet.

[photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Wikipedia]