By Tim Reid
SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - Mitt Romney, the 2012 U.S. Republican presidential nominee, said on Friday night he was giving "serious consideration" to his near-term future, his latest signal that he is gearing up for another White House run.
Romney, who would be making his third presidential bid should he choose to run again, said his wife, Ann, had been asked in recent days about the prospect of another Romney presidential campaign.
"She believes people get better with experience," Romney said in a speech to Republican activists. "And heaven knows I have experience running for president."
Romney also ran in 2008 but lost the Republican nominating contest that year to Senator John McCain.
Romney was making his first public appearance since his surprise announcement a week ago to a group of political donors that he was considering another White House bid.
Romney was speaking at a dinner function at the Republican National Committee's winter meeting on board the aircraft carrier USS Midway, which is permanently docked in San Diego Harbor, California.
Romney was given a standing ovation when he appeared on stage with his wife. A few members of the crowd cheered when he mentioned the 2016 race.
But in Reuters interviews with Republican members in San Diego, few are enthusiastic about another Romney run. Most expressed a wish for him to sit out the race.
Many Republican party members expressed a desperation to win back the White House after two consecutive defeats. Most say they believe Romney will not be the strongest choice in 2016, in a race that could see Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee.
One of the most damaging episodes in his failed 2012 bid were remarks caught on film of Romney disparaging "47 percent" of Americans who he said had become reliant on government handouts.
On Friday night, Romney struck a very different tone. One of the most important things to focus on in the post-Obama era, he said, was to lift people out of poverty.
"Under President Obama, the rich have gotten richer and more people are in poverty than ever before," Romney said. He also touted his work as a pastor in the Mormon Church helping the sick and elderly.
Romney was harshly critical of Obama's foreign policy.
Earlier in the day, Texas Governor Rick Perry, who made a disastrous White House bid in 2012, told activists: "I know this will surprise you, but I’ve been thinking a lot about 2016."
(Reporting by Tim Reid)