BOSTON - One former senior aide to Mitt Romney is so despondent he has been unable to choose between two venerated election loss coping mechanisms: nurturing through his grief an Al Gore-style beard, or drinking heavily.
Another, who has known Romney since before his 1994 Senate race loss to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, lamented missing out on a once-in-a-lifetime chance to enjoy a 20-year relationship with a newly elected president, and the potential personal and professional benefits that accompany it.
Other longtime Romney acolytes in Massachusetts are lamenting an electorate they sincerely believe chose poorly, shaking their heads ruefully at reports of or their own experiences with a fatally flawed get-out-the-vote operation, or blaming a national Republican Party they think baited Romney too far to the right during the primary.
Whatever their chosen outlet for post-election emotion, Republicans in Massachusetts say they are devastated by the feeling of having been so close, then learning they were quite far away.
Compounding the GOP pain locally is that Bay State Republicans lost three races they thought they could win. Sen. Scott Brown fell to consumer advocate and Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren by seven points, a race that Massachusetts and national Republicans had felt going sour for weeks. More surprisingly and, to some local party members, more painfully, popular former state Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei was dragged out by President Obama’s wave, losing to Democratic Rep. John Tierney, who had been beset by a gambling scandal involving his wife.
“There is no Republican Party here anymore,” muttered one longtime Massachusetts Republican power broker, speaking on condition of anonymity.
That slightly overstates the case. But Romney’s loss has personal implications in the state he once governed that go beyond those across the country.
“Mitt has been very loyal to a bunch of people from Massachusetts who, I don’t know if they were measuring drapes, but certainly a lot of people assumed they were going to be making the move south for the next four, eight years,” said Daniel Haley, a health care executive who served in Romney’s administration and worked on Brown’s campaign.
That Romney stuck with a coterie of senior advisers from Massachusetts that date to his 2002 gubernatorial campaign – most prominently Beth Myers, Eric Fehrnstrom, and Peter Flaherty – only deepens the intimacy of the loss. Another prominent figure in Romney’s inner circle, campaign chairman Bob White, is a friend whose relationship with Romney dates back decades.
Haley said “dozens” of people in the inner precincts of Romneyworld watched their personal and professional futures dramatically altered by Romney’s loss.
“That goes from the upper tier of the people who have been with him since his first governor’s race to the relatively young kids who have been riding around in cars and planes with him for the last two, four, six years,” he said.
Viriato deMacedo, a Republican state representative who served during Romney’s governorship, said he shuttled between Brown’s somber election-night consolation session at the Park Plaza Hotel and Romney’s event at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, leaving the latter despite the crowd’s upbeat mood after Pennsylvania results were announced, Obama won, and the Florida returns showed a tight race in a state Romney badly needed. “I wasn’t going to stick around,” deMacedo said.
“People are shocked,” he said on Saturday. “They thought there was going to be enough disappointment with the president over the economy that they'd see Mitt was the right choice. We thought turnout was going to be higher in Massachusetts so that he wouldn't lose as badly here and that nationally he'd get over the top.”
It was a harsh comedown for a state party that had enjoyed the national limelight during Romney’s run and, two years earlier, after Brown’s odds-beating victory in 2010 to take the seat held since 1962 by Kennedy until his death in 2009. This year, Republicans’ fleeting presence in the state’s congressional delegation was counted out by the voters, their nominee lost the state by 23 percentage points and the White House, even their tiny minority in the state legislature was shaved down by a net four House losses.
Some Massachusetts Republicans had talked openly of a desire to serve in a Romney administration. Those plans have wilted. Others had been looking forward to Romney nationally, Brown statewide, and Tisei in the 6th Congressional District as a triple-header victory that would have furnished additional satisfaction, on top of Brown’s 2010 win, after years of setbacks. Instead, they got none of them.
A party long accustomed to disappointment may have been dealt its harshest dose yet.
“You lose an election and it’s kind of like a death, because you have an immediate future planned out and that isn’t going to happen,” Haley said. “Sure, people are crushed.”