BOSTON — About an hour after Mitt Romney delivered his brief, graceful concession speech at the Boston Convention Center, a group of his top aides — Beth Myers, Eric Fehrnstrom, Stuart Stevens, Russ Schriefer, and several others — retired to the bar of the nearby Westin Hotel. Nobody was crying, nobody was cursing, nobody was drowning his or her sorrows. It was just a quiet, impromptu gathering of people who had worked for a long time, some of them for many years, to elect Mitt Romney president.
An hour after a concession speech is no time to discuss the big, underlying reasons for a political defeat. And so at the Westin there was talk about proximate causes, especially Hurricane Sandy and how it had stopped Romney’s momentum and helped Barack Obama polish his presidential image at a critical time in the campaign. Before Sandy, Romney’s aides had watched him move up, point by point, in the national tracking polls. After Sandy, Romney slipped, Obama rose, and the race became a virtual tie.
“It was close,” they said. “We were close.” And they were close, in the popular vote at least, which wasn’t much of a consolation given that Obama racked up at least 303 electoral votes. But they had all worked incredibly hard on the campaign — when Romney said he and running mate Paul Ryan had left everything on the field, he could have been talking about the people in the bar, too — and still, it just hadn’t worked out.
A few hours earlier, across the street at the Convention Center, the campaign’s supporters and volunteers fully expected Romney to be the nation’s next president. Indeed, what was striking after Fox News called the race for Obama, at about 11:15 p.m., was how stunned so many of Romney’s supporters were. Many said they were influenced by the prominent conservatives who predicted a big Romney win, and they fully expected Tuesday night to be a victory celebration.