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Thursday, November 8, 2012

At a Breakfast With Aides, Romney Reflects on the Campaign

BOSTON â€" Nobody expected Mitt Romney to show up.

Just a few hours after he lost the election by a stinging margin, Mr. Romney's top donors and aides assembled at the Intercontinental Hotel here in Boston for a long-planned breakfast.

But at the last minute Mr. Romney sent word that he would make it. He had something to say.

Standing in front of the small crowd in a hotel conference room, he was unexpectedly expansive and reflective, as if trying to make sense of a defeat that seemed to genuinely startle him, according to people who attended.

He marveled at the president's ability to turn out voters, at times by using strategies that had maligned him. He faulted the Obama campaign for characterizing him as an enemy of women, singling out advertisements that claimed he opposed abortion in all cases and opposed contraception. That, Mr. Romney said, was simply untrue, according to attendees.

He took a gentle swipe at the news media. He mocked st ories that claimed his son Tagg had staged an intervention to fix a faltering campaign and was playing a heavy hand in shaping political strategy. The news media, he said, kept searching for conflict inside a campaign that Mr. Romney told the crowd had been remarkably harmonious.

As he wrapped up his remark, Mr. Romney became uncharacteristically emotional, according to attendees. He choked up as he talked about the friendships he made on the campaign trail and thanked his campaign staff members by name. A few of them wiped back tears of their own.

When he was finished, Mr. Romney lingered for a long time, shaking hand and delivering hugs.

He waxed nostalgic, telling some staff members what positions he had envisioned for them in a Romney administration.

It seemed, those in the room said, like he did not want to leave. “He stayed until the last person left,” said an attendee.