Then Romney pulled out his iPad. “I just finished writing a victory speech,” he later told reporters aboard the Romney plane for its final flight. “It’s about 1,118 words.”
What about a concession speech?
“I’ve only written one speech at this point,” the would-be next president said.
Romney wasn’t entertaining any what-ifs. Not on this day. He thought the White House would be his. That sense of destiny was reinforced when he landed at the Pittsburgh airport for an unannounced afternoon visit to discover hundreds of fans cheering him on from a faraway parking garage.
“Intellectually I’ve felt that we’re going to win this, and I’ve felt that for some time,” Romney told reporters. “But emotionally, just getting off the plane and seeing those people standing there — we didn’t tell them we were coming. We didn’t notify them when we’d arrive. Just seeing people there, cheering as they were, connected emotionally with me.”
This is how Romney wanted to end his campaign. To get here, he followed a sometimes tormented path. He lurched to the right to survive a bruising primary. He faced painful scrutiny of his business career and personal wealth. And now, advisers said, he feels satisfied that he finished the campaign not as Mitt the “severe conservative,” nor as Mitt the out-of-touch plutocrat, but as Mitt the middle-of-the-road problem solver.
“We’re talking about the moderate Mitt, the guy who makes things happen, who walks in a room and tries to work out a deal, and it makes him feel better that we’re not talking about this kind of odd guy who’s hard to relate to,” said Tom Rath, a longtime adviser.
Romney thought that if he won, he would win it by being himself. And if he lost, he would go out on his own terms.
Romney also thought that to achieve victory, he should make one last push. He rearranged his schedule at the last minute to make a final appeal to blue-collar voters in Pennsylvania as well as Ohio, the must-win battleground state where polls heading into Tuesday showed him lagging behind Obama.
But first he had to vote. Obama had voted days ago, the first president to take advantage of early voting, but not Romney. He showed up with his wife, Ann, at their polling precinct near their home in Belmont, Mass., next to the soccer fields where he goes to watch his grandkids play on weekends.
It took Romney just a couple of minutes to complete his ballot. Asked whom he voted for, Romney didn’t say, exactly. “I think you know,” he said with a smile.
Then he got to work. Romney flew to Cleveland, where he visited a campaign office to buck up volunteers. “This is a big day for big change,” Romney told them.