At this moment of make-or-break anticipation, Romney was serene and contemplative. Jetting to two more battleground states Tuesday, betting that one last visit might push him over the edge in the razor-sharp contest, he sat thinking. His eyes were closed, his chin resting on his clasped hands and his legs stretched out before him. One aide described it as a prayerful position.
Then Romney pulled out his iPad. “I just finished writing a victory speech,” he later told reporters aboard the Romney plane for its final flight. “It’s about 1,118 words.”
What about a concession speech?
“I’ve only written one speech at this point,” the would-be next president said.
Romney wasn’t entertaining any what-ifs. Not on this day. He thought the White House would be his. That sense of destiny was reinforced when he landed at the Pittsburgh airport for an unannounced afternoon visit to discover hundreds of fans cheering him on from a faraway parking garage.
“Intellectually I’ve felt that we’re going to win this, and I’ve felt that for some time,” Romney told reporters. “But emotionally, just getting off the plane and seeing those people standing there — we didn’t tell them we were coming. We didn’t notify them when we’d arrive. Just seeing people there, cheering as they were, connected emotionally with me.”
This is how Romney wanted to end his campaign. To get here, he followed a sometimes tormented path. He lurched to the right to survive a bruising primary. He faced painful scrutiny of his business career and personal wealth. And now, advisers said, he feels satisfied that he finished the campaign not as Mitt the “severe conservative,” nor as Mitt the out-of-touch plutocrat, but as Mitt the middle-of-the-road problem solver.
“We’re talking about the moderate Mitt, the guy who makes things happen, who walks in a room and tries to work out a deal, and it makes him feel better that we’re not talking about this kind of odd guy who’s hard to relate to,” said Tom Rath, a longtime adviser.
Romney thought that if he won, he would win it by being himself. And if he lost, he would go out on his own terms.
Before addressing a crowd of supporters in Boston, Romney first conceded to President in private, according to Rachel Weiner:
Mitt Romney has conceded to President Obama in a phone call. According to CNN, it was a “short” and “polite” conversation.
“I have just called President Obama to congratulate him on his victory,” Romney said as he began his concession speech in Boston. “I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation.”
Romney kept his concession speech short, gracious and to the point. These are all parts of the art of a concession speech, David Beard wrote:
Brevity. Humility. Uplift. Perspective.
A concession speech is the last thing any presidential candidate wants to make, the last thing to prepare for, the last thing in a winner-focused society that he or she wants to be remembered by.
Historian and political analyst Scott Farris knows a bit about these things. Farris, author of “Almost President: The Men Who Lost The Race But Changed The Nation,” breaks down a solid concession speech into several elements. As he put it in an e-mail a few minutes ago:
“The first part is the concession. Usually, this entails something along the lines of, as John McCain said, ‘the American people of have spoken, and they have spoken clearly.’ Wendell Willkie had a nice turn of phrase when he said, ‘People of America, I accept the results of the election with complete good will.’
“Many candidates also go out of their way to refer to the winner as ‘my president’ or ‘our president’ to signify that the time for unity has come. Al Gore did an especially nice job in 2000, quoting Stephen Douglas, who had said after losing to Lincoln, ‘Partisan feeling must yield to patriotism. I’m with you, Mr. President, and God bless you.’ Many times, they expressly call for national unity. Adlai Stevenson reminded Americans, ‘That which unites us as American citizens is far greater than that which divides us as political parties.’
Then the losing candidate explains what their campaign was about and why it was a noble cause. George McGovern, who lost in a landslide, put as happy a face on it as you could by saying, ‘If we pushed the day of peace just one day closer, then every minute and every hour and every bone-crushing efforts in this campaign was worth the entire effort.’ Many also talk about how they brought in a new generation of young people into the process and then promise to keep on fighting. Sometimes it is for some general principles, or sometimes, as with Mike Dukakis, it can be a laundry list.
“In many ways, the ritual is like a military surrender, and the winner tolerates the loser puffing up his own campaign — for that makes the winner’s victory only greater.