SALT LAKE CITY — Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said he believes Mitt Romney will run again for president in 2016 and win.
Chaffetz, who campaigned around the country for Romney in 2012, made the prediction to MSNBC "Hardball" host Chris Matthews on Monday despite Romney's repeated insistence he's not going to be a candidate.
“A hundred times he says he’s not, but Mitt Romney has always accomplished what he’s set out to do. I think he’s proven right on a lot of stuff,” Chaffetz said. "I happen to be in the camp that thinks he’s actually going to run, and I think he will be the next president of the United States."
Chaffetz told Matthews that Romney “probably doesn’t want me to say that.”
Longtime Romney supporter Kirk Jowers, head of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics, called Chaffetz's statement "wishful thinking." He said Chaffetz has no insider knowledge of Romney's intentions.
Chaffetz, Jowers told KSL NewsRadio's Doug Wright, "of course, like all of us, is hopeful Mitt will run."
The latest prediction of a third Romney bid for the White House comes as Utah GOP Chairman James Evans readies next month's national launch of an effort to draft Romney into running.
Evans told Wright he will push rule changes at the Republican National Committee's August meeting to allow a draft candidate to be among the choices for party delegates.
"It's never been done before," Evans said. "We're not going to stop until we have Gov. Romney as the Republican nominee."
Romney has said again and again he is not interested in another run, after losing the GOP nomination in 2008 to Arizona Sen. John McCain and the presidency to President Barack Obama in 2012.
Jowers said on KSL NewsRadio that the only scenario that would cause Romney to take a hard look at the race is if the nominating process so damaged the other Republican candidates that they'd be willing to step aside.
That would be appealing to Romney, Jowers said, because "he wouldn't have had to go through the hard year of drudgery to get to that point," calling the primary race a "brutal" process.
But Jowers said that's all "incredibly unlikely" and a "fantasy land."
"There just won't be any coronations any more."