But then came Colorado for the president and Florida also was looking tougher than anyone had imagined.
“We just felt, ‘where’s our path?'” said a senior adviser. “There wasn’t one.”
Romney then said what they knew: it was over.
His personal assistant, Garrett Jackson, called his counterpart on Mr. Obama’s staff, Marvin Nicholson. “Is your boss available?” Jackson asked.
Romney was stoic as he talked to the president, an aide said, but his wife Ann cried. Running mate Paul Ryan seemed genuinely shocked, the adviser said. Ryan’s wife Janna also was shaken and cried softly.
“There’s nothing worse than when you think you’re going to win, and you don’t,” said another adviser. “It was like a sucker punch.”
Their emotion was visible on their faces when they walked on stage after Romney finished his remarks, which Romney had hastily composed, knowing he had to say something.
Both wives looked stricken, and Ryan himself seemed grim. They all were thrust on that stage without understanding what had just happened.
“He was shellshocked,” one adviser said of Romney.
Romney and his campaign had gone into the evening confident they had a good path to victory, for emotional and intellectual reasons. The huge and enthusiastic crowds in swing state after swing state in recent weeks – not only for Romney but also for Paul Ryan – bolstered what they believed intellectually: that Obama would not get the kind of turnout he had in 2008.
They thought intensity and enthusiasm were on their side this time – poll after poll showed Republicans were more motivated to vote than Democrats – and that would translate into votes for Romney. Romney Shellshocked By Loss
And to think: Romney prides himself on being data-driven, and Ryan is a self-described ‘numbers guy.’
Going into election day my hunch was that Romney would get plastered by votes from: minorities, women, under-30s, and, that the GOP war-on-women may incur blowback among GOP women too. Maybe GOP women would stay home at historic levels of refusal! Against this I figured on strong turn out of old white guys where it didn’t really matter. The tracking polls in Ohio suggested a small turnout bump would make all the difference, and, this is what happened.
I also felt that in Ohio, where I live, Romney’s outrageous TV ad about Obama and Jeep, once thoroughly debunked, started to serve a new purpose, reminding viewers that Romney didn’t care about the facts. And, much worse, by not pulling the ad, it sent the message Romney believed voters in Ohio to be fools and suckers. It seems that Romney didn’t have any social psychologists on his team!
In the end which Romney lost, the arch right winger of the primaries or the pseudo-Reaganesque moderate of the general election? We will likely never know. Say what you will about the ongoing ideological battle in America, this election demonstrated what I call the problem of the GOP empty suit.