Had those stories been told sooner, Romney may have not just won, but won big, Zwick said. Voters saw Romney as a smart business executive, he said, but didn’t get a chance to know him as a devoted family man, friend and church member.
“If people had seen some of the stories from the convention, if they could have understood even better the kind of person that he really is, I believe it wouldn’t have been a matter of a few hundred thousand votes. We would have won by much more than that,” he said.
The race turned out to not be as close as many pollsters predicted with President Barack Obama winning reelection with 51 percent of the popular vote and 332 electoral votes to Romney’s nearly 48 percent share of the popular vote and 206 electoral votes.
The campaign was cautious about playing up Romney’s personal life and faith, Zwick said, because research had shown voters would reject Romney if all they knew about him was that he belonged to the LDS Church.
“You want to be careful because people know less about the Mormon faith generally,” Zwick said. “There’s some unknown because you’re relying on people’s perception,” even though his religion received considerable attention in the 2008 race.
“Mitt wasn’t running for president because he has some Mormon agenda. Mitt was running for president and he happened to be a Mormon. It is who he is and it shaped his life and how he raises his kids and his moral values,” said Zwick, whose father, Elder W. Craig Zwick, is a member of the LDS Church’s First Quorum of the Seventy.
“But I don’t think it helps for the American people to think, while of course this was never the case, that there was some Mormon agenda there,” Zwick said. “Because there wasn’t. He didn’t take any direction from Salt Lake City. The First Presidency didn’t call him.”
Primaries hurt Romney
The extended primary calendar in 2012 also hurt Romney, Zwick said, putting too much emphasis on state primaries and caucuses rather than the general election.
Before Romney was formally nominated at the Republican National Convention in late August, he had battled a series of would-be front-runners including former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Texas Rep. Ron Paul.
In 2008, McCain wrapped up the GOP nomination in March, when his last major rival dropped out. But Romney didn’t reach the delegate threshold needed to secure his spot on the 2012 ballot until the end of May and still faced a convention challenge from Paul supporters.
While the Romney campaign was slogging through a long list of GOP primaries and caucuses, the Democrats were free to focus on the general election. The Obama campaign ran ads claiming that as a business executive, Romney outsourced jobs and ran companies that went bankrupt.
Zwick said for months leading up to the GOP convention, it was the Obama campaign that branded Romney. The Romney campaign, he said, used its resources to fight fellow Republicans.
“We were fighting the Rick Santorum war,” Zwick said, spending months being seen as “just moving further and further right, having to create this and fighting the Republican primary process.”
The 47 percent
While voters may not have understood Romney’s personal side, Zwick said there was another message that surfaced during the campaign that proved too difficult to overcome.
It was the idea that a certain percentage of voters, famously identified at 47 percent in a secretly recorded speech to donors by Romney, would choose a candidate based on what sort of government assistance they could expect to receive.
After falling in the polls, Romney eventually said suggesting that nearly half of Americans were victims dependent on government was "completely wrong," but Zwick defended the idea.
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