Once it become clear that Obama had defeated Romney, CNN's "partisan" contributor Paul Begala noted that he felt empathic for Mitt Romney. After all, Romney had just spent the better part of the past six years, really, running for president. For the man so richly blessed, not finishing first in this week’s presidential race must rank as the bitterest disappointment of his life.
Like Begala, I found myself feeling bad for Romney, too.
This isn’t the first time I’ve felt bad for the runner-up in a presidential election. In 2000, I didn’t support Al Gore. Not, at least, until it was clear that he was not going to be president. But when Gore conceded the race to George W. Bush, he displayed an aspect of character that had been missing during the campaign. By accepting defeat, he proved himself to be an honorable man. Although conservatives would continue to belittle and mock Gore for the rest of the decade, I grew to respect his leadership on the issue of climate change. His passion to serve his country was real.
The opposition’s treatment of Gore made me wonder why Republicans tend to be sore winners. George W. Bush wins the election, and Republicans still do not have anything nice to say about Al Gore. Gore is still a joke, and his work to make the world a better place is rejected solely for one reason – his political affiliation.
When Mitt Romney gave his concession speech, I turned to my wife and said, “Wow. Wouldn’t it be great if a person ran an entire campaign like a concession speech?” What I meant was simply this: Romney was genuine; he was honest. And, he was likeable. Maybe he actually does believe in America after all; his tone was humble, his words were gracious.
He had nothing more to lose. That’s probably why a campaign cannot be run like a concession speech, by the way. The stakes are too high, and winning is everything.
I don’t know what Mitt Romney will do now that his dream of being president is over. Whatever he does, I wish him well.