Romney Concession: Aides Tell the Tale

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David Axelrod, a former Obama adviser, has a new book coming out that details his career in politics. But one small section of the forthcoming Believer: My 40 Years in Politics has Washington tongues wagging. According to Axelrod, Mitt Romney’s 2012 concession call to Obama “irritated” the president.

He was “unsmiling during the call, and slightly irritated when it was over,” Axelrod writes in the book. He quotes Obama quoting Romney: “‘You really did a great job of getting out the vote in places like Cleveland and Milwaukee,’ in other words, black people. That’s what he thinks this was all about.”

Well…

First of all, let’s assume the story is 100 percent factual. There’s nothing in the quoted statement that insinuates that Romney was blaming his loss on the black vote. So it shows that Obama must be sensitive about that topic to draw that conclusion. And perhaps he should be, because the numbers don’t lie. While the black vote always goes overwhelmingly to the Democratic candidate, Obama’s two victories were particularly reliant on that demographic. Not saying there’s anything wrong with that – black voters have as much right to determine the direction of the country as any other voter – but there’s no denying the facts.

A Disputed Account

Of course, accepting the truth of the story is not something we can do as a matter of faith. Especially when a senior Romney aide has come out to say that his boss made no such comments. Garrett Jackson spoke to The Daily Beast about the allegations, and he happened to be in the room when Romney made his call. According to Jackson, Axelrod’s account of the matter is not accurate. “Axelrod created enough of a lie to distort who Mitt is during the campaign. That is enough. Your guy won.”

Jackson insists that Romney’s concession call was short, though he does provide room for the possibility that Obama may have accepted the call with irritation. To his recollection, Romney congratulated the president before telling him that he would have some “tough decisions to make” about the direction of the nation. “I’m here to help however I can,” he told Obama. At no time, Jackson says, did he mention anything about Cleveland or Milwaukee.

Of course, Jackson’s story is not necessarily a refutation of Axelrod’s. A third possibility exists wherein Obama made up the Romney comment when relaying the story to his senior adviser. That may be the least likely of the three choices, but it can’t be completely dismissed. Neither Romney nor Obama have yet commented on the story.

What is certainly true, however, is that Obama did indeed have some “tough decisions to make” following the 2012 election. By some miracle, America decided to give him a second chance. And if the last two years are any indication, he has squandered that chance. The voters will never be able to directly rebuke him for his failures, but the midterm results certainly provided an indirect censure.

Would Romney have done any better? Like the truth of what happened during that concession call, it’s a question that can never be satisfactorily answered. But it’s hard to think of a scenario where he could have done worse.