Mitt Romney didn't even want to run in the dumb presidential election he lost. He only did it because all the other Republican candidates were so terrible. At least, that's what Romney tells Washington Post reporter Dan Balz in the new book Collision 2012. A dozen family members gathered and voted on whether to try for the White House:
When they polled the group in Hawaii, ten of the twelve family members voted no. Mitt Romney was one of those ten voting against another campaign. The only yes votes were from Ann Romney and Tagg Romney.
But apparently, the Romney family is not a democracy. "Even up until the day before he made the announcement, he was looking for excuses to get out of it. If there had been someone who he thought would have made a better president than he, he would gladly have stepped aside," Tagg says. A Romney adviser said a second campaign "is like a second marriage.... You go into it with your eyes open. It's not as romantic." Though many members were worried about losing their privacy and being battered by the press and opponents, Romney jumped in. He had to. All the other candidates were just so bad:
"I didn't think that any one of them had a good chance of defeating the president, and in some cases I thought that they lacked the experience and perspective necessary to do what was essential to get the country on track."
That is a bit of revisionist history. It's not like Romney waited around until all the other good candidates dropped out. Romney formed his exploratory committee in April 2011, and raised $10 million in a single day in May. At the time, strong candidates like Jon Huntsman and Tim Pawlenty were making it clear they would run. Only in May did Rob Portman, Mitch Daniels, and Chris Christie rule out their own campaigns.
As has been reported, the Romney campaign actually believed in unskewed polls. Even though the vast majority of polls showed Obama would be reelected, the Romney crew was confident they would win. As we knew, Romney didn't even write a concession speech. But Balz reveals he tried and had writer's block.
Confidence was so high heading into election day that Romney had not taken the precaution of writing a concession speech in advance. He had made a few stabs at it, but it would not come together. "I can't write it," he told someone close to him. "It doesn't seem right."
Paul Ryan was, if anything, more confident. As he was preparting to fly to Boston in the late afternoon of election day, he was openly talking about resigning his chairmanship of the House Budget Committee immediately after the election and was already thinking of possible replacements to head the committee during the budget fight coming in the lame-duck session.
Once reality started to sink in, the Romney campaign was upset, as if they'd never contemplated loss:
Ryan was distressed at the projection showing Obama as the winner. One person remembers him saying, "This is wrong. This is bad for the country. This is really, really bad."
Romney later told other campaign staffers, "This is scary. This is bad for the country." In a January 2013 interview, he told Balz, "I happen to believe that America is on a course of decline if it continues with the policies we've seen over the last couple decades, and we need to take a very different course, returning to more fundamental principles, if you will."
Weirdly, over at President Obama's campaign, they had the opposite problem. The president was slow to accept he'd won:
[Valerie] Jarrett was gesturing enthusiastically at the screen. "You've won!" she exclaimed. Obama stood impassively, arms folded across his chest. Harrett said, "He said, 'Let's wait and see what everybody else says.' Then when Fox called it he was like, 'Okay, I guess I probably won.'"