The Boston Globe has a really good behind-the-scenes look at what went wrong for the Romney campaign, including the still-baffling decision to put a Clint Eastwood improvisational sketch in a prime time convention spot in lieu of a very compelling biography video. But what really caught my eye is this assertion from Romney's son Tagg:
More than being reticent, Romney was at first far from sold on a second presidential run. Haunted by his 2008 loss, he initially told his family he would not do it. While candidates often try to portray themselves as reluctant, Tagg insisted his father’s stance was genuine.
“He wanted to be president less than anyone I’ve met in my life. He had no desire to . . . run,” said Tagg, who worked with his mother, Ann, to persuade his father to seek the presidency. “If he could have found someone else to take his place . . . he would have been ecstatic to step aside. . .”
I call bullshit.
This is a nice way to excuse a big loss like the one Romney suffered by saying, well, he didn't really want to be president anyway. It implies that had he really, really wanted it, you know, with sugar on top, then he'd have won.
But more to the point, it's an absurd notion, an extraordinary claim that I just cannot possibly accept just on this one man's word.
To run for president, and to do so at the level Romney achieved — faring strongly in 2008 and coming close to victory in 2012 — requires, I believe, a lust for power, a raw desire for the office that we mere mortals can't quite fathom. This doesn't mean that the candidate in question is evil or does not have honorable intentions for what they will do once in office, but being even a moderately successful presidential candidate requires a kind of insatiable need to be president that borders on the psychopathic. And I include Barack Obama in this — he's proven that, for all his faults and tendencies toward caution, he is a fierce and ruthless candidate.
To be a strong presidential candidate, let alone president, one has almost no choice but to be so.
(I always carve out an exception here for Eisenhower. I think the rule is that if you save the world from Hitler, you get to be president no matter what you're like.)
A while back I made the case that candidates who saunter into presidential races a little late into the process are themselves doomed from the start (thinking primarily of folks like Rick Perry, Fred Thompson, and Wes Clark) because the very fact of their late start is a signal that they didn't have the required drive to begin with. If they had, they'd have had their shit together to take on such a monumental task well in advance of anyone even knowing they were even thinking about it.
So I think that Tagg is either bullshitting the press, or he's being bullshitted by his parents. It's a benign bullshitting, I'll grant. Like I said, it's a comforting way to spin a soul-crushing loss. But you don't get to be the presidential nominee of a major party (and almost get there in a previous election) without really, really fucking wanting it.
Unless, I guess, you believe that God has commanded you. And that's almost the same thing.