Romney’s Finale: A Presidential Contender Makes His Stand

For 523 days, Romney ran a staid and precise presidential campaign. But he decided to end it with a party.

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Christopher Morris / VII for TIME

Mitt Romney campaigns in West Chester, Ohio on Nov. 2, 2012

Manchester, N.H.

It’s a Mitt Romney rally like you’ve never seen. Grandparents waved glow sticks, teenagers did the wave, plumes of smoke wafted over the thundering crowd and Kid Rock cavorted atop a piano under a laser light show. For 523 days, Romney ran a staid and precise presidential campaign. He decided to end it with a party.

On the last full day of his campaign, with the presidency nearly within his grasp, Romney punctuated a 17-month slog with a raucous rally at a packed arena in his adopted home state of New Hampshire. After pausing to soak in the scene, he asked the same voters who first put him on the path toward the Oval Office for their vote once again. “Tomorrow we begin a new tomorrow,” he said. “Tomorrow is a moment to look into the future and imagine what we can do.”

The valedictory marked the end of a grueling 18-hour campaign swing, five stops scattered across a quartet of pivotal states. He began the morning in fog-shrouded Sanford, Fla., on the outskirts of Orlando. Then it was on to Virginia, where he dropped into Lynchburg, one of the commonwealth’s conservative strongholds. In Fairfax, fans packed the bleachers of George Mason University’s basketball court, while an overflow audience of several thousand more gathered in the fading light on a grassy slope outside, singing the Temptations’ hit “My Girl,” with Romney’s surname swapped in for the titular chorus.

(PHOTOS: Last Days on the Road with Romney)

“I am looking around to see if we have the Beatles here or something,” Romney said, basking in the adulation, “but it looks like you came just for the campaign, and I appreciate it.” After nightfall, thousands packed a cavernous airplane hangar in Columbus open to the November chill. When Romney’s plane taxied in to the soaring theme of Aaron Copeland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” they unleashed an earsplitting roar.

The decision to finish in New Hampshire offered fitting symmetry; it was here that Romney kicked off his campaign a year and a half ago, with a richly choreographed announcement speech on a Stratham farm, all fluttering flags and windblown hair. Romney jumped into the race as the frontrunner, and befitting the role, he ran a campaign light on policy detail and heavy on patriotic platitudes, with nutrient-free stump speeches. Rivals ran against Romney’s apostasies as much as on their own records. He won a long, bruising primary without ever seeming to win the party’s heart, then found himself on defense again for much of a general election his campaign expected to take shape as a referendum on Obama’s first term.

At the very end of his undertaking, Romney was no longer fretting about losing votes, but fighting for every last one. His closing argument, delivered in a hoarse voice, was an unabashed appropriation of Obama’s time-tested themes of post-partisanship and change. One supporter even toted an image of Romney rendered in the Shepard Fairey-style made famous during Obam’s historic 2008 run. “I learned as governor of Massachusetts that the best achievements are shared achievements. I learned respect and good will go a long way, and are usually returned in kind,” Romney said.

(MORE: Romney Begins Final Campaign Swing with Big Promises in Florida)

But these unifying sentiments were delivered with a heaping of red-meat digs at Obama’s “liberal agenda.” In Columbus, supporters behind Romney hoisted bright orange signs bearing the legend “Defend Freedom: Defeat Obama;” others carried placards that read “Vote for Love of Country,” invoking Romney’s retort to Obama’s offhand statement that “voting is the best revenge.” The charged slogans were reminders of the line Romney has had to tiptoe, between courting independents and slaking conservatives’ thirst for a candidate who channels their rage at the president.

Long billed as the last rally of the race, the Manchester stop won’t be the final event. On Monday, Romney aides said he would travel on Election Day to Ohio and Pennsylvania, visiting Cleveland and Pittsburgh in a last-ditch gambit to wring every vote out of a pair of states that may stand between Romney and the Oval Office.

Faced with public polls that show a slim but stubborn Obama lead in the bulk of the swing states that will decide the race, Romney’s advisers summoned cautious optimism. On the record, they predicted victory (although what else would they say?). Stuart Stevens, Romney’s top strategist, said his boss wasn’t nervous, but rather “eager to lead the country.” His supporters are undeterred; at the Columbus rally, many clung to placards bearing the legend OHIO BELIEVES, passed out by members of Romney’s advance staff.

(PHOTOS: The 2012 Presidential Election Year in Pictures)

If his fans are running on faith, Romney seemed at points to be running on fumes. At his first two events Monday, he looked worn out, stumbling over small turns of phrase even as he rattled off a familiar speech from twin teleprompters before modest crowds.

George Romney, Mitt’s father and idol, was know for his persistence — an attribute he used to win over his wife and climb to the top rung of corporate America without a college degree. His son inherited the trait. He has spent innumerable days trekking through the corn fields of Iowa and the VFW halls of New Hampshire and swing suburbs of Ohio, living out of hotel rooms and airplanes, in dogged pursuit of the world’s highest office. “I need your vote,” he said in New Hampshire. “Walk with me.”

As the clock ticked toward midnight, Romney gazed out at the crowd. Unlike Obama, who teared up at his last rally in Des Moines on Monday night, the Republican nominee — a private man under the world’s brightest spotlight — never quite let his emotions peek through. Not even on the brink of history. His final words were drowned out by the roar of the crowd.

MORE: Past Is Prologue in Presidential Race’s Closing Arguments

54 comments
BenevolentLawyer
BenevolentLawyer

Many non-partisans are saying that if Romney wins Florida and Virginia, he is still in. Hmmm.. I hope folks in Virginia are voting like crazy for Obama. I want Romney done and gone very early in the night.

sacredh
sacredh

When Mitt gives his concession speech he'll be standing on the steps of Tara and swearing, "With God as my witness, I will NEVER pay taxes again!".

.

His chances are Gone With The Wind.

JohnYuEsq
JohnYuEsq

LANDSLIDE!

Carroll County, NH results 

Barack ObamaDemocrat (Incumbent)69.70%

Mitt RomneyRepublican27.27%

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

Bye Bye Mittens. I'd like to say that it was nice knowing you, but I'd be lying.

sacredh
sacredh

Romney: I coulda' been a contender! STELLA!

sacredh
sacredh

“I am looking around to see if we have the Beatles here or something,” Romney said"

.

It ain't the Beatles Mitt. Your running mate is Milli Vanilla.

KentR
KentR

TOO late   I voted 3 hours ago and  that is that the lot is cast  and we will soon see who the lot is cast for in the largest margin  and who the Electoral college  selects for the top job..  the rest will find out if theyre working in government or have to find work like the rest of the citizens in the public sector..  

MarthaQuigley
MarthaQuigley

I hate to tell Romney but the Beatles have not been around for awhile.

grape_crush
grape_crush

> For 523 days, Romney ran a staid and precise presidential campaign.

Ummm...6*365=2190, not 523, Alex. Just sayin'.

And I wouldn't use the word 'precise', considering the dishonest and blunderiffic campaign Romney has run.

LiberalLies2012
LiberalLies2012

All a person has to do to see the difference between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama is how they have ended their campaigns.

Obama's ending speeches have been all about I, I, I...I got Bin Laden.  I got healthcare passed.  I want to tax the rich.  Obama is all about fulfilling his birthright of destroying the greatest nation the earth has ever witnessed.  To materialize his father's dream to end what they believe to be a neocolonialist country.  That is what Obama "revenge" statement reflected the other day.  

Rightfully so, Romney seized upon those words.  Romney has shown us what WE can do together, not what Barry and his band of thugs from Chicago think we should be.  

The Dreamer of Change, Obama, is a one and done wonder.  Just like his idol, Jimmy Carter, he will be relegated to history as "the greatest hope to save this country who was a total failure."  

The American DNA is to be successful, to achieve what is not possible in other countries and hit the big time.  That goes against the Obama dream of making everyone the same.  To "spread the wealth" in particular to those who do not have the individual ambition to be a success.  Progressivism is a disease.  Progressivism is a cancer on our country.

Anyone who has been successful in this country knows and understands what is at stake here.  If you want your children and grandchildren to be successful the path and plan from Barry Obama will not achieve that goal.  Mitt Romney represents what success in this country is all about.  Barack Obama only represents the affirmative action mentality of the left.  Over the past 20 years we have tried the left's goal of giving everyone a trophy just for showing up.  It has failed.  Our country is going down the tubes because people today think the government owes them something.  

We simply cannot afford 4 more years with Barack Obama in charge.

bobell
bobell

Alex -- There's a typo in the caption.  Somehow "last" before "stand" was omitted.

My mental image of the situation is Romney in his $2,500 suit standing on a trapdoor singing Kumbaya. And isn't it wonderful that he's closing with hope and change? Wonder where he got that.

Also, I don't agree with you that the presidency is "nearly within his grasp."  That suggests that there's some way he can reach out and grab it.  There isn't.

My MBA son says he likes some of Romney's ideas. But he won't vote for Romney. (He'll vote all right, but for the other guy.)  Reason: He has no idea what Romney will do if elected. Shorter version: He doesn't trust Romney.  And that, dear children, is why Romney is going to lose.  Ultimaterly it does come down to character.

ViableOp
ViableOp

Here is a look at two internal emails from Stratfor which outline possible dirty tricks that were used on election day to swing the outcome of the 2008 presidential election and why these allegations were never pursued:

http://viableopposition.blogspot.ca/2012/11/the-dems-and-dirty-tricks-election.html

How long will it be before all polling stations in the U.S. require independent monitoring before allegations of cheating get out of hand?

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

@BenevolentLawyer You have three chances to go to bed early: 1) Virginia, 2) Florida, and 3) North Carolina. If any of them are called for Obama, the fat lady has sung. If not, you'll have to wait for Ohio.

kbanginmotown
kbanginmotown

@sacredh Robo-Romney: "It is, in fact, quite likely that,..ah...I could, in a very real sense,...have been...a contender, if you will..." 

Tero
Tero

@sacredh 

I'm surprised he didn't say something like;

 “I am looking around to see if we have Tommy Dorsey here or something"

OR

“I am looking around to see if we have Charles Lindbergh here or something"

sacredh
sacredh

fitty, it's cloudy here but it's in the upper 40's. It's the warmest it's been in days. As soon as I finish my coffee, I'm heading out to pick up people and get them to the polls.

fitty_three
fitty_three

It's sunny here, sacred.

Perfect Obama weather, don't you think?

BenevolentLawyer
BenevolentLawyer

@LiberalLies2012 Are you for real????? Mitt Romney is the worst possible candidate the Republican party could have fielded, and that is why he will lose. Will this election be close?I doubt it. Yesterday, Romney spoke as though he knew he already lost.I hope he loses BIG, really BIG.

HudsonValleyTim
HudsonValleyTim

" Mitt Romney represents what success in this country is all about"

Holy cow, what a joke.  Mitt Romney is all about the plantation mentality, and by your statements, you are as well.  Everything that he does and says reeks of trickle-down prosperity.  Give the captains of industry and owners of the plantation a big pile of cash, and they'll sprinkle it upon their ignorant workers.  It works great, but only if you're at the top of the food chain.

Obama is not about giving out the trophy for showing-up...he's about giving everyone that shows-up a spot at the same starting-line.  If you have such a hard time with living with that, look around for someplace more acceptable to your neocon-tastes.  You won't be missed. 

KentR
KentR

@LiberalLies2012  Not as much as Romney changes position  a thousand times before he gets off stage..  too Multi chooice  to be for anything in particular   if your on everyones side then your not really on anyone's side   except YOURS  and  that helps only who??   so you dont get MY vote..  you make Slick WiLLIE  look  Honest  he sets his opinion  and rarely shfits it about over years not microseconds. 

fitty_three
fitty_three

rusty:

Nate Silver trumps your bold.  Romney is melting. --- 8.4%!

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@LiberalLies2012 

I liked how Obama's ending speech opened with thoughts and prayers for the families that have suffered under Sandy, whereas Romney was all about how Obama is the boogeyman.  Sums up their campaigns quite well.

NP042
NP042

@LiberalLies2012 The modern-day far-right conservative - all about individualism and personal responsibility, until the other guy does it.

Tero
Tero

@LiberalLies2012 

"Progressivism is a disease."

And you're a moron. Nothing else needs to be said.

bobell
bobell

@Rusty [yawn]

Do you really think that posting talking points on the morning of Election Day is going to accomplish anything?

MargieJohnston
MargieJohnston

@bobell @bobell Obama wears very expensive suits too. Your son needs to do more research..not just listen to the media saying we don't know what Mitt stands for. What does Obama stand for? Did you know four years ago? No. And today, Obama's record on the economy is high unemployment and $16 trillion in debt. Is this the future your son wants? Mitt Romney has a proven record of fixing problems. He is a family man. His father gave him an education and then sent him out on his own...the media does not tell you that. He had to work hard to get where he is today. Did he make mistakes..of course. Did Obama? Look at Libya...four Americans were murdered because this Administration did not provide them with security. He refused to meet with Congress, instead blaming them. He sent US Taxpayers money to China...Leslie Stahl did a story on it. Obama has decided the Nation, and we will all pay for that division.

outsider
outsider

FT and the Economist agree with you on the trust issue. @bobell

bobell
bobell

Who monitors the monitors?

Is cheating out of hand or just the allegations?

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@53_3 

8.4% is not 0%.  It's unlikely that he'll win, but anything can happen.

fitty_three
fitty_three

Accusing Obama of a campaign of "Hate and Lies".

GOD how I hope the insanity of the 21st century ends. It would be nice to see a sane GOP again.

outsider
outsider

@Tero @LiberalLies2012 

Bah, the righties are just trying to reverse the clock - all this progressiveness will show them how wrong headed and backwards they are. Which is why they hate it. 

Future generations are going to look back on this time and shake their heads wondering how the country even entertained the idea of going back to the 50's. 

Forward is a good slogan. Because wishing for yesterday, instead of learning from it is just a sad, weak point to take. 

HudsonValleyTim
HudsonValleyTim

Margie - I would say thet the distinction that you fail to make is that Mitt is not a problem solver...he is (in business parliance) a "Fixer".  He makes problems go away.  The problem is, as the President you cannot make problems go-away unless you solve them.  You cannot make a company healthy by cutting it to the bone and sending manufacturing overseas without dealing with the decimated local economies and unemployed workers.  Mitt the Fixer might be very well suited for private enterprise, because the by-product of his actions are someone-else's problem.  As President, they are all "your problems" and you cannot spin-and-flip-flop your way out of them.

As for your other assertions - please read the paper occasionally.  You're embarrassing yourself.

Tero
Tero

@MargieJohnston 

Wow, what a collection of stale and tired talking points. Have you ever had an original thought in your life?

bobell
bobell

@Margie Put forth your tired talking points if you must, but don't insult my son.  He happens to be among the dozens of millions of casualties of the Bush Disaster, but surely his MBA ought to suggest to you that he knows how to find and weigh facts.  (He also has a law degree. Shades of Mitt Romney!)  He knows that Romney isn't Bush, and he was hoping against hope that Romney could extricate us from the morass faster than Obama. But he has zero faith in the Romney he saw for himself in speeches and commercials.  I feel the same way. Ultimately, that's why we both voted (early) for Obama.

mariapa1934
mariapa1934

@outsider2011 @shepherdwong @BenevolentLawyer 

T O UNION MEMBERS AND ALL VOTERS:IT is about the Economy, Truth and your Money in the Bank,,,,,,,, Stupid !Obamacare = Government WILL have Direct access to your Money in the Bank.Click on, or copy and paste 

: -- http://tinyurl.com/nweao6 ----

WHY OBAMA DOES NOT DISCLOSE THIS ??
 He is so MUM about the above !

AND OF COURSE THE UNION BOSSES ARE  TRES MUM  !!P

outsider
outsider

@shepherdwong @BenevolentLawyer 

This just in from AFL-CIO head Richard Trumka:

Ohio union members are energized and overwhelmingly supporting President Obama and Senator Sherrod Brown for reelection.

By a 41-point margin, Ohio union members are voting for President Obama (70%) over Mitt Romney (29%) in the presidential race. The early vote among Ohio union members tilts even more heavily in President Obama’s favor (79% to 21%).

Obama’s support among Ohio union members has increased by five percentage points since 2008. Our Election Night and post-election polling in 2008 showed Obama winning 65% of the Ohio union vote, so even accounting for each poll’s margin of error, Obama currently is performing at least as well among Ohio members, if not better, than he did in 2008.

Senator Sherrod Brown also is in a strong position to win Ohio thanks to strong support among the state’s union members, among whom he leads Josh Mandel by 70% to 29%.

Strong Democratic performance among Ohio union members is reducing Romney’s support among key demographic groups that he needs in order to carry Ohio.

Obama and Brown are carrying 70% of the union vote in Ohio despite the fact that the membership there is 83% white, 40% Evangelical Christian, and 53% gun owners—all groups where Romney needs to “run up the score” in order to stay in contention.

Indeed, Obama is winning 65% of white union members, 50% of Evangelical union members, and 59% of union gun households.

http://www.salon.com/2012/11/06/election_day_liveblog/