“Mitt was vintage Mitt,” said L.E. Simmons, an oil investor on Romney’s national finance committee. “He was analytical, no notes, spoke from the heart and was very appreciative.”
But Romney’s top aides, who only a couple of days ago were openly speculating about who would fill which jobs in a Romney administration, woke up Wednesday to face brutal recriminations.
Some top donors privately unloaded on Romney’s senior staff, describing it as a junior varsity operation that failed to adequately insulate and defend Romney through a summer of relentless attacks from the Obama campaign over his business career and personal wealth.
“Everybody feels like they were a bunch of well-meaning folks who were, to use a phrase that Governor Romney coined to describe his opponent, way in over their heads,” said one member of the campaign’s national finance committee, who requested anonymity to speak candidly.
“Romney World,” the fundraiser added, “will fade into the obscurity of a lot of losing campaigns.”
Stuart Stevens, who as Romney’s chief strategist was the recipient of some of the harshest blame, did not return requests for comment Wednesday. Nor did many of Romney’s other top advisers, who during Romney’s concession speech were visibly shell-shocked.
Bob White, Romney’s close friend and business partner who chaired the campaign, strongly defended Stevens and the rest of the staff in an interview a few weeks ago.
“Mitt never doubted his team, and the reports of infighting were not true,” White said.
In Washington, meanwhile, scores of transition-team staffers who had been preparing for a Romney administration started packing their belongings Wednesday.
Mike Leavitt, the former Utah governor running the transition, convened a conference call at 10 a.m. to inform the staff they had until Friday to organize their files, return their laptops and cellphones and vacate their government office.
At the Wednesday breakfast, Romney told the donors he believed Hurricane Sandy stunted his momentum in the final week of the campaign, according to multiple donors present.
Although Romney himself stopped short of placing any blame on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who praised President Obama’s leadership during the storm, several Romney supporters privately pointed fingers at the outspoken governor.
“A lot of people feel like Christie hurt, that we definitely lost four or five points between the storm and Chris Christie giving Obama a chance to be bigger than life,” said one of Romney’s biggest fundraisers, who requested anonymity to speak candidly.