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New book: Romney almost cut short presidential bid

Published August 9, 2013 2:13 pm

Campaign • Mitt's son says at the start, his father was looking for an excuse not to run.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Washington • Mitt Romney almost cut his presidential campaign short before it even began.

After a scathing editorial from the conservative Wall Street Journal, Romney called his son Tagg to say he was getting out. There was no path to the nomination, Mitt Romney feared, because the Republican Party would never hand him the nomination.

"There were many other times between December and May where my dad had made up his mind not to run," Tagg Romney tells Washington Post writer Dan Balz in his new book, Collision 2012. "He was hoping for an exit. I think he wanted to have an excuse not to run."

Romney, of course, ran, but the new book about the 2012 campaign highlights how much of a reluctant candidate the former Massachusetts governor was at the start. Even at some of the tough points, Romney thought he was done for.

"Almost everybody was ahead of me at one time or the other," Romney told Balz. "And so I'd look at those and say, 'Well, right now they're more likely to get there but I'm going to keep on battling.' "

Romney, who ended up losing the election 51 percent to 47 percent in the popular vote to President Barack Obama, knew going into the race that he had some great strengths but also some big hurdles: He was rich during a time when the 1 percent was pilloried; he passed a universal health care law in Massachusetts that Obama had somewhat copied; and he was Mormon in a largely evangelical party.

"I think it was [chief strategist] Stuart Stevens who said, 'You know, our party is more Southern, and you're from the North. It's more evangelical, and you're a Mormon. And it's more populist and you're a rich guy. This is going to be an uphill fight,' " Romney said, according to the book.

But Romney nabbed the GOP nomination — despite once thinking it was inevitable that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich would land it — and went on to battle Obama.

There were ups and downs in the campaign, the largest of the latter being Romney's "47 percent" remark — that 47 percent of the country relied on the government and wouldn't take personal responsibility for themselves — that turned off a swath of voters.

In a post-election interview with Balz, Romney says voters "perceived" his comment as worse than it actually was. The ex-candidate says he was just trying to say that both Democrats and Republicans have their core base of voters.

Romney's reaction irritated Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief, David Corn, who criticized Romney for still being unable to come to terms with what he said.

"Romney knows he screwed the pooch with his 47 percent rant," Corn wrote this week. "The fellow who wanted to lead the United States cannot look at reality squarely and own what he said. Months after being rejected by American voters — winning the support of, uh, only 47 percent — Romney still cannot take responsibility himself."

tburr@sltrib.com