BOSTON — In a triumph of positive thinking, Mitt Romney wrote only one speech Tuesday, the one he would deliver in victory.
And in a nod to the precision of the world in which the former Massachusetts governor lives, he told reporters on his plane as it headed home on Tuesday that it was around 1,118 words.
But as Tuesday became Wednesday, the rewritten speech had not been delivered, the former Massachusetts governor stubbornly refusing to concede a close race in Ohio, even as the walls fell down around the Republican campaign everywhere else.
This was a much closer race than 2008, but a loss is still a loss and the repercussions will begin almost immediately for a deeply divided Republican party.
A list of excuses for a potential Romney defeat started percolating here in Boston and from Romney-friendly commentators early in the evening — was it Hurricane Sandy, was it the Chris Christie bear hug with Barack Obama, were they still paying for the sins of George W. Bush, was it the infamous “47 per cent” video or the poorly timed, horribly crafted, untrue ad that went up in Ohio?
Moderate Mitt found his moderation mojo too late in the game.
Or did he just hit the Republican wall?
The Grand Old Party has been left behind by the changed U.S. demographics and unless it can find a way to reach out to non-whites, particularly make some type of case to Latinos in this country, it threatens to remain on the outside looking in on the White House.
All you had to do was survey the crowd here in Boston, where the city’s sprawling convention centre lit the night sky, a beacon of neon beckoning the faithful for a celebration.
Inside, it was dim and overwhelmingly white, thousands gathered, cheering only by rote as Republican strongholds stayed where they belonged, but swing states that Romney needed to complete his father’s failed journey fell into the Obama column or stubbornly remained too close to call.
When the major networks put Ohio in Obama’s column, a tepid party was over and a downcast crowd waited for the inevitable speech from their man.
Romney’s ground team appeared to deliver. Republican turnout was higher than in 2008 in many states where he outperformed John McCain of four years ago. It wasn’t that he didn’t stack up huge leads among white males or had fallen prey to the much-hyped gender gap.
When the numbers are sifted, shaken and stirred, it will become clear that the changing face of America, the growing Latino vote and ballots cast by African Americans moved the needle to Obama, giving him a second term.
This new America is passing Republicans by.
Despite his last-gasp strategy of campaigning in Pennsylvania and Ohio on election day, the results in the two states were sobering for the Republican.
Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan joined forces in Ohio on Tuesday, lunching on burgers and chili at a Wendy’s in Richmond Heights.
Then they flew to Pittsburgh, where hundreds of supporters were waiting to meet Romney, who was visibly moved by the reception and proclaimed it the minute he knew he had won.
“I can’t imagine an election being won or lost by, let’s say, a few hundred votes and you spent your day sitting around,” Romney told a Virginia radio station as he began his final day as a candidate.
“I mean, you’d say to yourself, ‘Holy cow, why didn’t I keep working?’ And so I’m going to make sure I never have to look back with anything other than the greatest degree of satisfaction on this whole campaign.”
On the flight home, he reached for a sports metaphor to describe his campaign.
“I feel we have put it all on the field. We left nothing in the locker room. We fought to the very end. And I think that’s why we will be successful,’’ he told reporters travelling with him as he made his way home to Boston.
There was one more “what if” that strategists were questioning in the final days of the Romney campaign.
This was a gentler, warmer, sunnier Romney who reached out to American voters in the latter days of the race.
Gone were the jarring attacks on Obama, the gloomy view of the country, the dire predictions that it was on the road to Greece and the campaign (on both sides) was suddenly lifted from the muck in which had been mired.
This was a Romney talking about reaching across the aisle, his pride in country, his optimism about its potential. He seemed more comfortable in that skin, perhaps the first time in his long and winding road that he had felt comfort in any skin.
What if he had found that place earlier in the campaign?
It was finally his campaign of Clear Eyes and Full Heart. But the Can’t Lose part of that slogan was replaced by Not Enough Votes.
Tim Harper is a syndicated Toronto Star national affairs writer. He can be reached at email@example.com.