Political Hay

Indefatigable

Don't for a moment underestimate Mitt Romney's staying power.

By 10.1.12

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Winston Churchill, is credited with saying, "success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts." Churchill knew of what he spoke. By the time he had attained victory over the skies of England and later, over Nazi Germany, itself, he had seen many successes and many failures -- with more failures to come. Truly, his is a life that breathed the impermanence of both success and failure -- giving hope or fear to those who possess one or the other.

Accordingly, it is not the success or the failure of a person that matters -- it is the courage to continue. Not the end result of an undertaking, but the consequences of a particular result is what is lasting -- that is and should be the focus that matters most. That is what counts.

I would submit that the present focus on a multitude of polls, pronouncements, and prognostications by and about Mitt Romney, similarly, fails to focus on what counts. It fails to demonstrate, whether intentionally or not, that if "courage to continue" is effectively measured, Romney's demise is not only greatly exaggerated, it is contrary to the context of his enduring legacy.

Romney is, simply put, indefatigable.

First, let us look to the highlights of the GOP primary:

Initially, Governor Romney could not beat Governor Rick Perry: "Governor Rick Perry [is] seemingly solidifying his lead among Republicans in the primary contest. Forty-two percent of Republicans think Rick Perry has the best shot at beating Barack Obama. Forty-five percent of seniors support Perry compared to 21% for Mitt Romney." Romney bested Perry in the debates, beat him in the polls, and Governor Perry dropped out of the race.

Then, Governor Romney could not beat Herman Cain: "Cain found exactly what Rick Perry lost over this six-week period -- 22 percentage points. Romney, on the other hand, has essentially flat-lined at 23%. According to WSJ/NBC Democratic pollster Peter Hart, "Romney is the remainder-man candidate for the Republican party -- acceptable, but not the first choice." Ultimately, Cain crumbled and Romney remained.

Then Romney was expected to suffer a humiliating loss to Gingrich: "Nearly half of the Fox News watchers said they would vote for Mr. Gingrich... Just 12 percent of the regular Fox watchers said that Mr. Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, is their choice." But Gingrich fever broke and Romney, again, continued to face down the next rival.

Finally, it was Rick Santorum who would be Romney's undoing: "[I]t looks like the 'anti-Romney' Republicans are coalescing around Santorum as their candidate." But that great wave of opposition also wavered, faded, and failed. Romney, after sinking Santorum, became the nominee.

And it wasn't just that each of the candidates had beaten him at one point or another: and not just by a few punches -- badly, double-digit badly. When they weren't beating him one-on-one, they were unifying against him even (sometimes) more than against the Incumbent. The entire cadre contenders made unprecedented attempts to defeat him collectively; the "anti-Romney voting bloc" would beat him individually, collectively, or by any means necessary. "I think the morning that he gets 1,144 [delegates] that are locked down, then I think he can claim to be the nominee," Newt Gingrich said late in the campaign. "But until then, I don't think he can be the nominee." And Newt was not alone. Despite labels as the "establishment candidate," he was largely rejected by much of the establishment who waited to support him until well after his emergence as inevitable GOP nominee.

Indeed, Romney not only survived each candidate's surge and -- and in some cases -- resurgence, he surpassed the collective animosity of the entire top-tier of both conservative candidates and pundits, alike. Nevertheless, Mitt Romney always found a way to succeed. He hinted at the magnitude of his determination in his 2008 concession speech, in a clear tone for anyone paying close attention. In a moment of genuine reflection he demurred, "I hate to lose." He's not accustomed to it. Losing. This is not opinion; this is history. Not surprisingly, the one person who knows him best, perhaps the only person who really knows him, made it the last thing she uttered at the Republican convention: "This man will not fail."

With some people, you could write that off as mere puffery.

But if you accept the fact that he's been running for president for four years, perfecting his candidacy, and besting hic chances, you might notice that his resignation from the 2008 campaign was not an end but a suspension in his campaign. He didn't fail he just hasn't finished.

Well before the embattled campaign of the GOP primary, Mitt Romney made a habit of taking on big projects, some of them unwinnable if not unthinkable -- either outright winning or meriting the laurels from opponents success (See Senator Kennedy's need to take out a second mortgage in order to beat back the only real threat to his reign that he ever faced.)

To be sure, until now, the successes have been different. This is a new challenge with unprecedented expectations. Courage can no longer be measured in pounds, but in tons. This, fight, after all, is for the Leadership of America -- of the free world. This isn't like his foray into former successes: it isn't running a venture capital firm, trying to out-maneuver competitors in finding the best and brightest corporations to build, bring forth, and revitalize; it isn't the senate seat of one of the longest-throned senators, ruled and reared in a state where his opponent's name elicited quasi-monarchical musings at anyone daft enough to attempt a dethroning; it isn't a failing winter Olympics games, embroiled in debt, scandal, and shame; it isn't a governor's race in a state beleaguered by blue-staters, unwelcoming to big "r" Republicanism; it isn't the candidacy for the GOP, requiring the surmounting of double-digit deficits at almost every turn; and it isn't the process by which he made himself and practically everyone else who worked for, with, and around him, incredibly successful. No, this is a bigger, nobler task. But a task for which he feels he is best suited.

Polls and pundits say that it can't be done; it's slipping away; he has no chance. That does not fit with the Romney narrative. Not the Romney narrative that others have created, the one that he created. The undersold story of a man who does not quit. If past is prologue, Mitt Romney's past leads to a predictable ending where, if victory was elusive, it was only temporarily so.

Certainly, no one in his path -- whether now or in the past -- can deny his tenacity. Ask the former contenders for the GOP nomination. Ask competitors of Bain Capital during his guidance as CEO. Ask the managers and owners of countless enterprises built, restored, and saved under that same guidance. Ask those responsible for the initial failures of the Salt Lake Olympic Games -- the failures that he turned around. Ask the losing Massachusetts Democrat who sought the governorship against him -- and failed. Ask his current opponent whether he wonders if Mitt Romney has figured out how to fail. Polls, press, and predictions suggest he will. His closest advisor (Ann) and history say he won't.

I think history has the edge.

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About the Author

Robert P. Kirchhoefer is a Washington, D.C. attorney who previously worked in banking and finance.