This morning, Mitt Romney announced that he wouldn’t run for President in 2016. I wish him well.
I was a Santorum backer in the early 2012 process. When the New Hampshire GOP – and by extension, the Romney campaign – invited me to come on board in July 2012, I did so. It wouldn’t have missed that experience for anything. Romneycare put me off when the primary was in its early stages. Once Romney was the nominee, however, no question: he had my vote. In the course of the campaign, I grew to respect the man. He’s Governor Romney to me, not “Mitt.” Always will be.
One of the ways I evaluate a candidate is to see how much she or he annoys the security detail. The security team is charged with guaranteeing a candidate’s safety. The candidate’s job, at least here in the home of the First in the Nation Primary, is to maximize contact with voters. Something’s gotta give. Thereby hangs a tale.
In July 2012, Governor Romney was scheduled for a campaign stop in Bow, New Hampshire. It was a small venue, capacity 200 or so. Enthusiasm ran high, and we took calls throughout the preceding week from people wanting to attend.
Just a few hours before the event was to take place, the horrible shootings were committed in Aurora, Colorado. Both President Obama and Governor Romney briefly suspended campaign rallies, recognizing that it was unseemly to hustle for votes while victims of a mass slaughter were still being identified.
The Governor was already in New Hampshire when the news from Aurora came out. It was too late to cancel the Bow event; people were lined up hours in advance. The event was delayed. Word came down from the Romney staff that the planned speech was going to be replaced with brief remarks. No one left; everyone in attendance wanted to see him even for a short program. Yet more delay. Suddenly, those of us on the local staff got an urgent request from the Governor: could we please line up a local member of the clergy to offer a prayer? One of my more resourceful colleagues did so.
Finally, about an hour after he had been scheduled to speak, the Governor quietly stood before the crowd. The minister who had come to offer the prayer preceded him at the microphone. Then Mitt Romney spoke for less than five minutes, somber and respectful. No campaign pitch. Pure class.
When he was finished, the dark SUVs of the campaign lined up just outside with engines running, ready to go. Serious-looking people wearing dark suits and earpieces attempted to usher the Governor to one of the vehicles. Nothing doing. Without the slightest hesitation, as though the security detail and the idling vehicles were nowhere in sight, the Governor created an impromptu receiving line. He invited Fr. Tutor, the visiting minister, and Senator Kelly Ayotte to stand with him. And then he shook hands with every single person who had come, saying thank-you for patience and support. He did not look at his watch. He did not glance down the line to see how many people remained. That’s the Mitt Romney I’ll remember all my life. I was the last person in line, and I wanted to hug the guy. (I refrained. Couldn’t afford to lose the job.)
The security crew looked like it was going to have a collective breakdown. It was beautiful sight.
As I said, I wish him well.