Romney has completed his second U-turn on the question of whether he'll run in 2016 and is back where he started: He's not running for president anymore.
His announcement Friday came after a weeks of heavy public flirtation with the idea of a third attempt.
''I've decided it is best to give other leaders in the party the opportunity to become our next nominee,'' said a statement from the two-time candidate and 2012 Republican nominee.
His public overtures had received, at best, modest enthusiasm.
The indignities piled up. Even a man who tattooed Romney's logo on his face in 2012 said he wouldn't support him this time.
Influential right-wing media mogul Rupert Murdoch was scornful. The Wall Street Journal, the Murdoch-owned organ of the Republican establishment, published a dismissive editorial: ''If Mitt Romney is the answer, what is the question?''
Several past supporters and fundraisers defected to other possible candidates, such as former Florida governor Jeb Bush. As one said in an interview with The Associated Press this week: ''I have turned the page.''
Romney did too — more than once.
He had repeatedly insisted he wasn't running again. Last year, when the New York Times asked him about a candidacy, he replied: ''Oh, no, no, no. No, no, no, no, no. No, no, no... I'm not running again.''
Then it was yes, yes, yes. Romney told donors he was planning a run, he began working to reassemble the campaign team and his family was talking openly about it.
He signalled plans to be a different candidate. Instead of complaining about the futility of seeking votes from the 47 per cent of poorer Americans, like last time, Romney set poverty-fighting as a top priority. His son Tagg Romney told the Washington Post he'd be more open about his personal life, including his Mormon faith.
Romney had been dogged by questions about authenticity, or lack thereof.
He swerved right in an effort to win over deep-red Republican primary voters, repudiating his own past as a governor who introduced the health reform that inspired Obamacare. An aide famously compared the 2016 campaign to an old ''Etch-a-sketch'' toy — win the primaries then start all over again as a new candidate in the general campaign, when it's time to seek centrist votes.
His opponents pumped out ads showing contradictory statements on issues including abortion, gay rights, health reform and privatizing social security.
Nobody was more aware of his reputation for about-faces than Romney himself.
''It's like trying to convince people that Dan Quayle is smart,'' he said in last year's Netflix documentary, ''Mitt.'' ''You’re not going to convince them that Dan Quayle is smart, or that Gerry Ford isn't a stumblebum. And it may be that I've got to live with that. 'Oh you flip on everything'."
He paused: ''In which case, I think I'm a flawed candidate.''
But the rationale for a comeback was built on a four-legged stool: poll numbers better than any other potential Republican candidate, fundraising prowess, a more open persona as illustrated in the Netflix documentary and bragging rights on foreign policy.
He claimed vindication after the ridicule he suffered in 2012 for declaring Russia the No. 1 geostrategic foe. The president mocked him as being stuck in a Cold War time warp.
After the Ukraine invasion, Romney's statement looked prophetic, not anachronistic.Suggest a correction