Mitt Romney insider details what went wrong during 2012 presidential campaign
SALT LAKE CITY — For Spencer Zwick, the realization that the man he’d worked for since the 2002 Winter Olympics would not be president didn’t hit until the morning after the election, when he started to introduce Mitt Romney at an event for donors.
Zwick, the Utah native responsible for raising nearly $1 billion as the campaign’s national finance chairman, said he’d introduced Romney countless times as “the next president of the United States. It’s like, wow, that’s really cool.”
But on that November morning in a luxury hotel in Boston, Zwick looked out over the somber crowd gathered for breakfast and could only ask them to welcome Romney and his wife, not the future occupants of the White House.
“One of the hardest things was standing up there,” Zwick recalled. “To just say, ‘Welcome Mitt and Ann Romney,’ this is the moment it struck me that, ‘Oh my goodness, he’s not going to be the president and he should be.’″
Back in Salt Lake City for a family vacation, the campaign insider sat down with the Deseret News for a lengthy interview about the challenges of the race, including the impact of Romney’s Mormon faith and the failure to win over voters Zwick said were more interested in what government could offer them.
“I think if people could have seen and understood Mitt Romney the man, he would be the commander in chief today. There’s no doubt in my mind,” Zwick said. “I know this guy. I’ve seen him in hundreds of situations.”
The 'sixth son'
Often called Romney’s “sixth son,” Zwick, 33, first got to know the 2012 presidential candidate before the Salt Lake Olympics. Zwick was serving as a volunteer translator when he was unexpectedly selected to be Romney’s chief aide, beginning a relationship that continues today.
After the Olympics, Romney asked Zwick to join him in Massachusetts, where Romney successfully ran for governor. Midway through his term, Romney started eying the White House and turned to Zwick to help with the campaign.
Still in his 20s, Zwick assumed responsibility for raising more than $100 million for Romney’s first presidential campaign, which ended with the elevation of Arizona Sen. John McCain as the Republican choice for president. After Romney left the 2008 race, Zwick and Romney’s eldest son, Tagg, founded a private equity firm in Boston, Solamere Capital.
But Zwick was ready to jump back into politics when Romney decided to make another bid for the White House. This time, he created a consulting company separate from the campaign that paid him and hundreds of professional fundraisers nationwide so he could better manage their commissions and other costs.
“I had a goal we could raise more money than had ever been raised before and do it at a better cost of fundraising than had ever been done before,” he said. “We were successful at both objectives.”
Not only did the Romney campaign collect an unprecedented billion dollars, the usual 10 percent fee for fundraising consultants that includes their share of the proceeds was cut in half, Zwick said.
Money not enough
Still, even with all that money, Romney came up short on Election Day. Zwick cities a combination of factors for the outcome, including how Romney’s own campaign portrayed him.
The personal stories intended to help voters connect with Romney, including about his service in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, weren’t told until the GOP convention in August.
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