Mitt Romney lost the presidential race in the summer

Romney lost the campaign months ago.

During trip to Summer Olympics, Democrats painted him as ruthless capitalist, a tag that stuck

 I fought against long odds in a deep- blue state. But I was a severely conservative Republican governor.

Mitt Romney lost the presidential race in the summer.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney arrives on stage on Tuesday in Boston, moments before conceding defeat to U. S. President Barack Obama in the presidential election.


It was the third week of July and the Republican presidential candidate was flying across the Atlantic for an international tour designed to make him look like a commander- in- chief. The 2012 Summer Olympics in London were about to start, a global sporting event that campaign aides concluded would minimize media focus on the presidential campaign.

Back home, Democrats made a different calculation. That week, they aired a blizzard of ads undercutting the narrative of Romney’s campaign by turning his strongest credential — his business record — into a liability. While Romney travelled abroad, $ 1.2 million worth of attack ads played 1,947 times on Ohio stations alone, charging him with shipping companies to China, jobs to India, and his personal wealth to tax havens in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.

Missed opportunities

“Mitt Romney’s not the solution. He’s the problem,” a narrator said in one of the spots.

Romney’s foreign trip was just one week in his six- year quest to capture the White House. Yet the episode highlighted a decisive difference in the race: While U. S. President Barack Obama’s campaign adopted an aggressive, negative strategy aimed at exploiting his rival’s weaknesses, the Romney team struggled to balance the business of running — raising money and preparing for debates — with the daily grind of politics. That caused them to miss opportunities to create early momentum and allowed the Democrats to define his message.

Romney’s campaign was dominated by an insular team that rarely tried to overrule the candidate. The captains of his effort, reclusive campaign manager Matt Rhoades and eccentric message man Stuart Stevens, were survivors from the 2008 primary run. Others, such as senior aides Beth Myers, Eric Fehrnstrom, Peter Flaherty and Spencer Zwick, had been with Romney for much of their careers.

Still, it was Romney, chief executive of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, who insisted on going to London. Rather than pushing back on the proposal, aides added Poland to the itinerary to make the trip seem like more of a foreign tour.

It was Romney who refused to release his tax returns or talk about his personal experiences as a Mormon bishop, and invited actor Clint Eastwood to give an unvetted, prime- time convention address that quickly became a national punchline.

And it was the presidential nominee who donned a pundit’s hat at a private fundraiser in May to say that 47 per cent of Americans considered themselves governmentdependent “victims” and would vote for Obama.

Business record assailed

“I’m very proud of the campaign that we’ve run,” he told reporters on his campaign plane Tuesday. “We left nothing in the locker- room.”

With the country still trying to recover from the financial meltdown, Romney and his team organized a campaign that would be focused on one issue: the economy. Romney would gain traction in the race by highlighting his background as a private- equity executive, presenting himself as an accomplished businessman with the know- how to get the country back on track.

Democrats, too, saw opportunities in Romney’s biography. They spent months and millions of dollars painting him as a corporate raider, happy to ship jobs overseas, and a wealthy man eager to favour his rich friends over a suffering middle class. They had some help from Republican presidential contenders, who had labelled Romney, the co- founder of Bain Capital LLP, a “vulture capitalist” during the primary campaign.

Those attacks, and the ads that contained them, outraged Romney, who complained frequently to advisers, donors and friends that Democrats were wildly misrepresenting his record. Still, his campaign struggled to effectively respond, and the caricature stuck.

Romney himself only reinforced that profile when he told voters in New Hampshire that he “liked to fire people,” NASCAR fans in Florida that he had a lot of friends who were team owners, and supporters in Michigan that his wife owned “a couple of Cadillacs.”

The video leaked from a spring fundraiser in Florida at which Romney uttered the 47- per- cent remark gave the Obama team the final boost they needed, with Romney’s own words solidifying the profile created by his rivals.

Obama swept key states in the Midwest, a region where voters had spent decades watching their manufacturing jobs drift overseas.

 Focused message

Ohio gave the Obama team a firewall against a Republican sweep. Last night, Obama won the state plus Iowa and Wisconsin, the home state of vicepresidential candidate Paul Ryan, according to television network projections.


Though he was never a natural study on politics, Romney became a meticulous one. After his father, George Romney, lost the presidential race in 1968, he never looked back, Romney recalled to friends. That trait wasn’t passed down to the son, who relies on datadriven analysis.

After he failed to win his party’s nomination in 2008, he gathered his team at his Massachusetts mansion to conduct an in- depth review of the campaign. At that meeting, a consensus emerged on the lessons learned in defeat. Romney, who made his fortune digging into the financial minutiae of companies, had offered too many details on the stump. This time, he needed a more focused message and a leaner operation.

Unlike four years ago, when Romney bounced from topic to topic, his campaign would stay centred on the economy and jobs. He traded in his suits for jeans, took to Twitter to tout his commercial flights on Southwest Airlines, and pared down his staff. Instead of pouring resources into dominating the Iowa caucuses, the team would use a win in the second primary contest in New Hampshire to quickly capture the nomination.

It didn’t quite work out as planned: During more than 20 primary debates and almost a year of campaigning, Romney strained to defeat a series of rivals who rose and fell in the polls.

 ‘ Severely conservative’

The primary complicated Romney’s chances in other ways, too.

A former Massachusetts governor with a moderate record, Romney concluded he had to woo the evangelical voters and anti- tax tea party activists with hard- line positions on immigration, taxes and abortion.

“I fought against long odds in a deep- blue state,” Romney told party activists on Feb. 12. “But I was a severely conservative Republican governor.”

Those were views the Romney campaign was never quite able to “etch a sketch” away, as Fehrnstrom had predicted in March the campaign would do.

Romney’s refusal to release more than two years of his tax returns gave Democrats additional firepower to make the secrecy case. His opposition to handing over additional returns hinted at a larger problem: Romney, the affluent son of a former Michigan governor, remained uncomfortable discussing his wealth, estimated at $ 250 million. With his support ebbing, Romney decided to go for a bold vice- presidential pick.

He passed over Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohioan who could have helped in a pivotal state, and Chris Christie, the bluntspoken New Jersey governor who could have brought a tougher tone to the race, in favour of Ryan, the darling of the small- government Republican base.

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