After bowing out, Romney maintained a constant presence on the campaign trail and cable news circuit on McCain's behalf, signaling to political observers that he still harbored presidential ambitions, even after he was passed up for the No. 2 spot on the party's ticket.
Romney also has maintained close relationships with key supporters in the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire, according to party officials there, and could easily revive the infrastructure he built should he launch another bid.
If the economy continues to flail after four years of Democratic rule, Romney's economic acumen may be in demand when it comes to restoring GOP power to the White House.
"If the economy remains the dominant issue, there will certainly be a draft Romney movement, you can count on it," Lewis said.
Romney also may be positioned to attract a wider base of support than some of the other figures on the Republican bench, including the now-GOP rock star Palin and Huckabee, whose 2008 campaign outlasted Romney's. Both have shown the ability to generate excitement among base voters but appear to remain fairly unappealing to the more moderate faction of the party -- not to mention independent voters who are permitted to vote in some Republican primaries.