Balz book: Romney considered scrapping bid in spring of 2011

July 2, 2013

Mitt Romney officially announced his candidacy for president in June 2011. But during the spring of that year, Romney considered scrapping his campaign altogether, as detailed in a soon-to-be-released book about the 2012 presidential campaign by The Washington Post's Dan Balz.


(Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

Then in the exploratory committee phase of his campaign, Romney was preparing on a May morning to deliver a speech in Michigan to defend the health care plan he signed into law as governor of Massachusetts and attack President Obama's federal health care measure. The Wall Street Journal released a scathing op-ed that same day slamming the Republican over his Massachusetts plan.

Romney's eldest son Tagg got a message from his father early that morning, he told Balz. "I'm going to tell them I'm out," Tagg Romney recalled his father telling him. "He said there's no path to win the nomination."

Romney confirmed after the election that he called his son one morning to tell him he thought he wasn't going to run. "I recognized that by virtue of the realities of my circumstances, there were some drawbacks to my candidacy for a lot of Republican voters," he told Balz in January. "One, because I had a health care plan in Massachusetts that had been copied in some respects by the president, that I would be tainted by that feature. I also realized that being a person of wealth, I would be pilloried by the president as someone who, if you use the term of the day, was in the 1 percent."

The book, titled "Collision 2012: Obama vs. Romney and the Future of Elections in America," is due out Aug. 6. It details the 2012 White House race through Election Day and its aftermath.

Romney's exchange with his son wasn't the first time he expressed doubts about whether he would run. During a Christmas holiday trip to Hawaii in 2010, the Romney family held a vote. Should Romney, who lost in the 2008 primary, run for president once again? Ten of 12 family members voted no -- including the candidate. Only Tagg and Ann Romney voted yes.

Romney opened up to Balz about his conservative stance on immigration during the campaign, and his use of the term "self-deportation," which Democrats slammed repeatedly. Romney said he did not anticipate the blowback he would face.

"I thought of it as being a term that is used in the community of those discussing immigration," Romney told Balz in January. "I hadn't seen it as being a negative term." He later added: "You have two options of dealing with those that have come here illegally: deportation or self-deportation. The president has deported more I think in four years than President Bush did in eight years. So the president was using a deportation method. The view of others is, no, let people make their own choice. ... So I was looking for a more, if you will, compassionate approach, which is let people make their own choice, as opposed to deporting people."

Romney also reflected on his "47 percent" comment, which he said he didn't initially think would become a major focus. He said the perception that his remarks suggested he didn't care about many Americans was incorrect.

"But I realized, look, perception is reality," Romney said. "The perception is I'm saying I don't care about 47 percent of the people or something of that nature, and that's simply wrong."

His campaign's biggest mistake in the primary, Romney told Balz, was not giving more attention to the Feb. 7 contests in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado. He also worried during the campaign about the surge of Newt Gingrich, even as his advisers tried to assure him Gingrich would not win.

"I have to tell you that, in the discussions I had with my senior staff, people like Stuart Stevens and Russ Schriefer said, 'Look, Newt is not going to be the nominee. I don't care what the polls say, he's not going to be the nominee.' I was far less sanguine about that," Romney said.

Sean Sullivan covers national politics for “The Fix.”
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