On Friday morning, Mitt Romney and his wife Ann drove themselves to campaign headquarters in Boston. Gone were the secret service detail and the motorcade that had trailed them in the final months of the campaign. Instead of the long lines of supporters waiting to see them, there was now a line of dozens of staffers outside Romney's office door; some waiting to shake his hand, others looking for a quiet moment with the Governor after a loss that stunned a confident campaign Tuesday night.
One Romney staffer said the line easily reached a hundred employees Friday as the former presidential candidate ate pizza out of the box in his office. Mrs. Romney wore jeans and a sweater. The Romneys came to headquarters every day after the election after telling staffers they would do anything they could to help them find their next job.
Their pledge to help came just hours after the loss Tuesday night. Romney called a staff meeting at headquarters the next morning. With emotions still raw from the night before, Romney and his wife arrived to deafening applause and chants of "Mitt, Mitt, Mitt." As workers wiped away their tears, one staffer said Romney was clearly moved and that Mrs. Romney cried as they stood before the team.
Campaign manager Matt Rhoades told the Governor and his wife, "We would rather lose with you than win with anyone else," sources said.
Romney's top advisers were convinced they had a solid shot at the presidency right until the end. Pointing to their internal data and their swelling crowds, Romney and his team believed the state polls were overestimating President Obama's standing given Romney's support among independents and what they believed was an enthusiasm gap favoring Republicans.
In the days after defeat, a source close to Mrs. Romney said she described the moment she walked onto that stage on election night as 'surreal.' The source adding Mrs. Romney wondered to herself, 'Are we really conceding?' In fact, it was Mrs. Romney who remained most optimistic as returns started pouring in. She was playing with her grandchildren and received updates from others whose eyes were trained on the television screen.
In the hours after his concession speech, Mitt Romney offered praise for his top advisers and donors who gathered at breakfast. According to a source at the breakfast, there was a standing ovation for Rhoades and applause for Mitt's 'Body Man,' Garrett Jackson, who was by Romney's side throughout the campaign. Jackson often captured and tweeted images of the Governor during private moments that spread at lightning speed among Romney's supporters. Among the images was a smiling Romney backstage watching his wife address millions of Americans from the Republican National Convention.
Romney also thanked top strategists Stuart Stevens, Russ Schriefer, Eric Fehrnstrom, and Beth Myers who led the effort to select a vice-presidential candidate. Donor Sheldon Adelson was also cheered, as was Romney's National Finance Chairman Spencer Zwick.
When asked about the President's overture to Mitt Romney during his victory speech on election night, a source close to Romney was unsure if Romney would accept the President's invitation adding Romney is still 'tender,' and bruised by the Obama campaign's portrayal of him, particularly his tenure at Bain Capital.
Even many of those closest to Romney don't know what he'll do next. The Romneys are expected to travel to their San Diego home to spend time with family. Many expect Romney's focus to include board work and the Mormon Church.
On Saturday, Romney sent a note thanking campaign supporters, "This was more than just a campaign, this was a national movement," he wrote. Romney did not specifically reference his loss to President Obama. "We still believe that better days are ahead," Romney wrote.