ATLANTA (AP) -- Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his wife reached out to former staff and supporters in key states over the weekend, making contact just hours after shocking many by signaling interest in a third run for the White House.
Romney, who ran unsuccessfully against President Barack Obama in 2012, told a private gathering of New York-area donors on Friday that he is again seriously exploring running for the White House. The next day, Romney began phoning former backers in Iowa and New Hampshire, the two states that kick off the drawn-out, state-by-state primary process for choosing a nominee.
Romney was the overwhelming front-runner for the Republican nomination at the beginning of the 2012 campaign. This time, he would join a 2016 field expected to feature more than a dozen Republicans with legitimate White House potential, including several sitting governors and U.S. senators. The Democratic field, in contrast, has a clear early front-runner in former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, even though she has not formally declared her intention to run.
Jim Merrill, a top Romney staffer in New Hampshire during his 2008 and 2012 campaigns, said he spoke to Romney over the weekend.
"We had a great conversation. He made it clear to me he is seriously considering the race," Merrill said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Romney's move toward the 2016 campaign comes after months on insistence that he would not seek the White House for a third time.
With little indication that Romney was seriously contemplating a run, many of his former staffers and donors have already moved on to other potential candidates.
The Republican National Committee's top fundraiser is stepping down this week as he prepares to join New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's prospective presidential campaign. Christie, along with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, is likely to compete for some of the same establishment-minded donors as Romney.
Romney's running mate in 2012, Rep. Paul Ryan, said Monday he will not run for president.
Romney also called a handful of others supporters in New Hampshire, while his wife, Ann Romney, phoned Susan Duprey, her personal traveling companion during the 2012 campaign and the wife of New Hampshire's national committeeman, Steve Duprey.