It’s happening again. Just when you think he’s gone into the sunset — the ‘Romney in 2016’ wave of hysteria sweeps across pundit land.

So here we are again this weekend asking ourselves — Will Mitt be the GOP nominee in 2016?

From the FRONT PAGE of The Washington Post today:

“Democrats don’t want to be associated with Barack Obama right now, but Republicans are dying to be associated with Mitt Romney,” said Spencer Zwick, a longtime Romney confidant who chaired his national finance council. He added: “Candidates, campaigns and donors in competitive races are calling saying, ‘Can we get Mitt here?’ They say, ‘We’ve looked at the polling, and Mitt Romney moves the needle for us.’ That’s somewhat unexpected for someone who lost the election.”

For a party without a consensus leader — nor a popular elder statesman like Democratic former president Bill Clinton — Romney is stepping forward in both red and blue states to fill that role for the GOP.

“There’s a pretty big void in the party right now for national leaders, and Romney’s in a unique position, having been around the track, to help fill that void,” said Scott Reed, a veteran GOP strategist who oversees the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s political operation.

There is nothing wrong — factually — with any of the comments made about Romney’s current positive profile. But should that (and would it) translate into a successful 2016 run for the two-time loser for President? (McCain beat him in 2008, Obama in 2012)

I’ve been arguing for many months that the total Democratic fixation on Hillary Clinton bodes ill for the bench strength of that party. Yet this constant reanimation of Mitt seems to be set in an opposite environment — the GOP bench is very strong, especially for 2016 prospects.

U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) fueled this current round of Mitt in 2016 talk in July.

And Professor Jacobson correctly pointed out at this blog last month that Mitt has been right on many important topics.

Depending upon which of the Republican candidates survive the Democratic-Media Industrial Complex “kill the baby in the cradle” strategy of crazying Republican rising stars, Mitt may be the last man standing, again.

Matt Lewis contributing editor at TheWeek.com and Daily Caller columnist has been one of the dissenting voices when it comes to Mitt 3.0. But now Matt is revving up the topic as well this weekend.

First, in the intervening years since 2012 — and on a range of issues, not the least of which is Russia — Romney has been proven right. And second — perhaps more important — one of the reasons so many observers viscerally disliked Romney was the cloying “goody-goody” quality that this fortunate son seemed to ooze. But do you know what the cure for that is? Losing.

That’s right, Mitt Romney the scrappy underdog — the loser who’s out to redeem himself — is a more attractive Mitt.

You know the term “lovable loser?” He should embrace it.

There’s a reason why Rocky gets knocked out by “Clubber” Lang early on in Rocky III. The rest of the movie is about the comeback. This journey involves Rocky shedding the trappings of fame and wealth — and getting real.

Romney would similarly have to get real. No more phoniness. No more telling us what he thinks we want to hear. He would have to be utterly authentic, and he would have to show that losing caused him to encounter pain and reflection. (The good news is that the Netflix film, Mitt, already helped show this side of Romney.)

Could Romney III be like Rocky III? Maybe, if the narrative is true and convincing.

Look, I like Mitt Romney. I was a Newt voter in South Carolina in 2012 — so Mitt wasn’t my first choice. Or my second. But he would have made a far more level-headed, effective and competent President than Barack Obama. Mitt probably trumps John McCain on those attributes, I might add.

I suppose this is a bad comparison since the two men have nothing in common — but back in 1966 there was probably a 45-year old curmudgeonly conservative laughing at the prospect of Richard Nixon coming back again in 1968.

Stranger things have happened, I just feel as if the fixation on Romney hurts the focus on really strong candidates that the Republicans have waiting in the wings after we get through November 2014.