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FILE - This Nov. 7, 2012 file photo shows Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney waving to supporters at an election night rally in Boston.

Stephan Savoia, Associated Press - Ap

Romney: A secluded man without a plan

  • Article by: PHILIP RUCKER
  • Washington Post
  • December 1, 2012 - 11:15 PM

The man who planned to be president wakes up now without a plan. ¶ Mitt Romney looks out the windows of his beach house in La Jolla, a moneyed enclave of San Diego, at construction workers fixing up his neighbor's home, sending regular updates on the renovation. ¶ He devours news from 2,600 miles away in Washington about the fiscal cliff negotiations, shaking his head and wondering what if.

Gone are the minute-by-minute schedules and the Secret Service agents. There's no aide to make his peanut butter and honey sandwiches. Romney hangs around the house, pecking away at his iPad and e-mailing his CEO buddies. He wrote to one who's having a liver transplant soon: "I'll change your bedpan, take you back and forth to treatment."

It's not what Romney imagined he would be doing as the new year approaches.

Four weeks after losing an election he was convinced he would win, Romney's retreat into seclusion has been marked by repressed emotions, second guessing and, perhaps for the first time in the overachiever's adult life, sustained boredom, said more than a dozen of Romney's friends and advisers.

"Is he disappointed? Of course. ... He's like 41," adviser Ron Kaufman said, referring to former President George H.W. Bush. "Forty-one would hate to lose a game of horseshoes to the gardener in the White House, and Mitt hates to lose. He's a born competitor."

He's not bitter, friends say

The defeated Republican nominee has practically disappeared from public view since his loss, exhibiting the same detachment that made it so difficult for him to connect with the body politic through six years of running for president. He avoided the press last week during a lunch with President Obama at the White House and, through an aide, declined an interview for this story.

After Romney told his wealthy donors that he blamed his loss on "gifts" Obama gave to minority groups, his functionaries were unrepentant and Republican luminaries effectively cast him out. Few of his policy ideas are even being discussed in Washington.

Yet friends insist Romney is not bitter. Bitterness, said one member of the family, "is not in the Romney genetic code."

No 'heavyset, haggard Mitt'

One counselor contrasted Romney with former vice president Al Gore, whose weight gain and beard became a symbol of grievance over his 2000 loss. "You won't see 'heavyset, haggard Mitt,'" he said. Friends say a snapshot showing a disheveled Romney pumping gas is just how he looks without a suit on or gel in his hair.

By all accounts, the past month has been most difficult on Romney's wife, Ann, who friends said believed up until the end that ascending to the White House was their destiny. They said she has been crying in private and trying to get back to riding her horses.

Romney has been keeping in shape with bike rides. The son of Detroit -- who boasted of the Cadillacs he owned as a sign of support for the U.S. auto industry during the campaign -- was spotted driving a new black Audi Q7, a luxury SUV manufactured in Slovakia.

At Thanksgiving, they ordered from Boston Market because there were too many kids running around to bother with cooking, a friend said.

That big renovation to transform the Romney beach house into an 11,000-square-foot manse complete with a car elevator? It hasn't begun yet.

Romney also is plotting his next career steps -- a return to business, perhaps, or something in the charitable realm or with the Mormon Church, friends said. He kept a diary on the campaign trail and is considering writing a book. "He's a very vibrant, young 65-year-old. He looks 55 and acts 45," Kaufman said. "He's got a lot of life left in him."

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