Romney: ‘I pray the president will be successful’

Daniel Moore

BOSTON, Mass. — As Ohio goes, so goes the nation. 

That phrase, repeated throughout the 2012 presidential campaign, proved true Tuesday night as Ohio’s 18 electoral votes pushed President Barack Obama over the 270 mark at 11:18 p.m. and awarded him a second term. 

“This is a time of great challenges for America, and I pray the president will be successful in guiding our nation,” said former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to supporters in the third-floor ballroom of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. 

Because of the tight margin in Ohio at the time of the projections by the major TV networks, Romney waited about 40 minutes to concede defeat. 

Although Romney recaptured states that Obama won in 2008 like North Carolina and Indiana, the president won the key states of Virginia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Colorado, and, ultimately, Ohio. 

“Like so many of you,” Romney said, addressing his campaigns staff, “I left everything on the field.” 

Romney’s loss ended a 17-month rise through the political ranks that began among hay bales and tractors.

His candidacy, which he announced last June from his family farm in New Hampshire, had been rooted in the mantra that America was broken under Obama’s policies.

“At the time, we didn’t know what kind of president he would make,” Romney had said to supporters. “Now, in the third year of his four-year term, we have more than promises and slogans to go by. Barack Obama has failed America.”

Throughout the particularly competitive primary season, the former governor emerged as a sensible businessman. He touted the financial success of his private equity firm Bain Capital and his management of the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, which was resurrected from financial scandal.  

However, Romney slipped a number of times in the final months, including a number of political gaffes, such as saying “I’m not concerned about the very poor” and calling 47 percent of Americans “victims” and “dependent.” 

Meanwhile Obama, after a lukewarm performance in the first presidential debate, held his ground in the polls in nearly every battleground state — including Ohio — until the very end. Although Romney gained in the days before the Nov. 6 election, early voting turnout favored Democrats despite Republican efforts to limit turnout. 

Romney campaigned heavily in the last days, making final stops Tuesday in Cleveland, Columbus and Pittsburgh. But it proved not to be enough, although campaign staff seemed hopeful.

“We are very optimistic and confident in where our votes are,” said Romney senior strategist Ed Gillespie to supporters around 9:40 p.m., when the bulk of the conservative Great Plains region had pushed the Republican ahead in both the electoral and popular vote. Ohio junior senator Rob Portman then chimed in via video feed to report “better than expected early voting numbers” in his state.

The night, however, took a turn in the next hour as Obama built upon slight leads in Florida, Virginia and Ohio. Romney made a short concession just before midnight and afterward posed briefly on stage with his and running mate Paul Ryan’s family. 

According to staffers, he hadn’t prepared a concession speech, but after taking off from Pittsburgh, on the last flight of the campaign, Romney addressed reporters reflectively. 

“Our team has been very solid,” Romney said. “We’ve gotten our message across. I am very pleased. We left nothing in the locker room. We fought to the very end.”

Contact Daniel Moore at [email protected].