Romney supporters’ surety turns to dismay

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The day had started optimistically, as Mitt Romney cast his ballot early then made one last trip to scour for votes. But it ended with stony silence in the ballroom where his supporters watched state after state that they hoped would break the GOP nominee’s way tilt toward President Obama.

Nearly two hours after the networks called the race for Obama, Romney appeared onstage at a waterfront convention center here to congratulate his opponent and thank his supporters.

“I have just called President Obama to congratulate him on his victory,” Romney said, and went on to thank his running mate, Paul D. Ryan, his wife, Ann, and his sons for their work on the campaign.


“I believe in America. I believe in the people of America,” Romney said as the crowd cheered, and he paused to take it all in. “I ran for office because I’m concerned about America. This election is over but our principles endure.”

Romney said that he wished he would have been elected, but that “the nation chose another leader, so Ann and I join with you to earnestly pray for him.”

Before Romney came out, several hundred people stood silently and sullenly, watching the returns come in.

Some struggled to understand voters’ continued support for Obama.

“We’re aghast. Why? Why would someone vote for him?” said Sandy Nabhan, 54, of Boston.

Earlier, the Republican candidate and his campaign had seemed optimistic as he sprinted to Ohio and Pennsylvania in a last-minute push to drive supporters to the polls.

As Romney strode off his plane Tuesday afternoon in Moon Township, Pa., hundreds of people spontaneously lined an outdoor parking garage overlooking the tarmac and cheered. That, the GOP nominee said, was the moment he became confident he would win.

“Intellectually, I’ve felt we’re going to win this, and have felt that for some time, but emotionally just getting off the plane and


But hours later, at what was to be a victory celebration here, a palpable sense of dismay settled over his supporters. Earlier than most had expected, the Associated Press and news networks, citing surveys of voters leaving the polls, gave the victory to Obama.

Romney kicked off the day voting with wife Ann at a community center near their Belmont home, and then joined close advisors, a son and a grandson aboard his campaign plane as he made appearances in Ohio and Pennsylvania to thank volunteers and make a final push to get supporters to vote.

Romney met up with Ryan on the tarmac in Cleveland. “What up?” Ryan said to Romney after striding onto his plane, and then regaled him with tales of recent rallies.

The state’s importance was highlighted by an unusual confluence: Air Force Two -- Vice President Joe Biden’s plane -- was parked near the two Republican candidates’ planes. After the GOP ticket visited the victory center in Richmond Heights, they ordered burgers at Wendy’s before flying to the Pittsburgh airport in Moon Township.

Romney later boarded his campaign plane for home, not knowing whether, in the end, he was closing out a six-year effort or preparing to be president. Breaking precedent with the last two months, he took questions from the reporters who accompanied him.

Exuding confidence, Romney said he had written only one speech for the evening: a victory speech.


“It’s about 1,118 words,” he said.