It's been a week now, and Kelly Hadfield is just starting to pick up the pieces. It isn't easy. For over a year he was fully engaged in the cause. Every night he would spend two hours, on average, on the Internet proclaiming his allegiance. He gave his time, he gave his money, he gave his heart. A truer devotee would be hard to find.
And then, just like that, it was over.
Mitt Romney surrendered.
Hadfield was at his computer keyboard when it happened a week ago yesterday, halfway into a blog posting that laid out how Romney, despite a serious delegate deficit to front-runner John McCain, could ultimately win the Republican presidential nomination by staying in the race and forcing a brokered convention in September.
"I never saw it coming," he says of Romney's surprise announcement that he was dropping out of the race. "I really believed there was still a way he could win."
Even when it was over, he wasn't."I finished what I was writing and posted it on the blog," he recalls. "I didn't know what else to do."
Kelly Hadfield, 52, is not alone. In a state where Republicans supported Romney by a 90 percent majority in the Super Tuesday primary, pieces of the Romney bandwagon are spread from Smithfield to St. George and all points in between.
"He had a lot of support here, that's for sure," says Hadfield. "I was constantly amazed at how many people I'd talk to who were in favor of him."
"It isn't easy letting go of something you supported that long and that hard," he continues. "It got to be kind of a habit. It's hard to give it up."
For his part, Hadfield's support was entirely self-generated. He set up his "Utah for Mitt" Web site and blog all on his own initiative. Every night after work he would come home, fire up his computer and get busy, posting pro-Romney blog entries and encouraging others to do the same all on a slow dial-up connection.
"I just always thought he was the best candidate out there, a natural leader," says Hadfield.
Hadfield never personally met Romney. He came closest last fall at the big Utah fundraiser and rally at the Salt Palace. He drove to the event from his home in Logan and manned the phone lines soliciting donations for the campaign.
"He walked near enough to me that I could have fought through the crowds to shake his hand," says Hadfield. "But I didn't, I just kept calling."
The self-employed businessman his family owns a window coverings business donated $600 of his own money to Romney's campaign. "Which isn't much for some," he says, "but it was a lot more than my normal $25."
He doesn't feel bad about spending the money. What he does feel bad about is the way his guy got treated by McCain and Mike Huckabee.
"I didn't like their coordinated and, to me, seemingly dishonest tag team attacks on Mitt Romney," he says. "I think McCain makes a good Democrat and Huckabee has the same problem except on social issues."
This, Hadfield admits, leaves him in something of a quandary when it comes to his 2008 presidential vote.
"Do I write in Mitt?" he asks. "Do I go to a third party like the U.S. Constitution Party? Or do I vote for McCain who at least shares a few of my views and would handle the war on terrorism well?"
The married father of two sighs. So much time, so few choices."I do hold out a strong hope for Romney to run again in four or eight years," he says, switching to a brighter topic. "He will have better name recognition to start with, and many a president lost as a runner-up in a previous election. I am keeping my Web log on hold for then and ready to help out when needed."
Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to [email protected] and faxes to 801-237-2527.