Video: Romney's concession speech - 'Nation is at critical point'

 

Saying that he left “everything on the field,” an exhausted Mitt Romney conceded defeat to Barack Obama in the early hours of this morning, calling for an end to the “partisan bickering” that has endured to the bitter end of this election battle.

The Republican nominee stood beneath a sign that asked supporters to “Believe in America” to tell the party faithful that the dream was finally over. “I so wish that I had been able to fulfill your hopes to lead the country in a different direction,” he told them. “But the nation chose another leader.”

It was a sombre end to a journey that had seen Mr Romney, and his supporters, invest roughly three billion dollars – and a year’s worth of hope - in an effort to bring what he spent the final days of the campaign describing as “real change” to the White House.

After hours of watching their agenda being thoroughly rejected at the ballot box, Romney’s smartly-clad supporters gathered in the Grand Ballroom of a convention centre in central Boston to confront reality. As he walked onstage, many were moved to tears. One elderly woman collapsed and had to be removed by paramedics.

“The nation, as you know, is at a critical point,” he told them, in a traditional post-election plea for national unity. “At a time like this, we can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing. Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people’s work. And we citizens also have to rise to the occasion.”

Romney was later joined by his wife Ann, who was dressed in red – the party colours – along with running mate Paul Ryan, and their respective extended families. “I also want to thank Ann, the love of my life. She would have been a wonderful first lady. She has been that and more to me and to our family and to the many people that she has touched with her compassion and her care.”

For Republicans, the night wasn’t just another defeat. It was what a certain occupant of the White House might call a “shellacking.” They lost the Presidency, by a thumping margin, and fell short in a string of high-profile Senate races, meaning it will be at least two years until the GOP can take control of America’s upper house of Congress.

The “long night” of suspense that pundits had predicted came to an end shortly before 11.30pm, when America’s major news organisations “called” the race for Obama.  It took another ninety minutes for Mr Romney to conclude that he indeed had no path to victory, after falling behind in Florida, Ohio, and almost every major swing State.

A post-mortem is already underway. The emerging meme, among party heavyweights, is that Obama’s failure to win a convincing majority in the national popular vote gives Republicans in the House, where they held their majority a mandate to harden opposition to his agenda. Bruising fiscal negotiations loom.

Within the GOP, conservatives and moderates will meanwhile debate the lesson to be learned from the defeat. Was Romney harmed by Ryanomics, and the Tea Party agenda? Or, given his left-leaning past, did voters reject him because he was too centrist?

Democrats, whose victory was fuelled by vigorous support from the minority and female demographics, will hope Republicans reach the latter conclusion, pushing the party further away from the centre of the political spectrum.

Wherever the party’s future leads, it seems unlikely that Mitt Romney will play much part in that discussion. “This election is over, but our principles endure,” he added, before exiting, stage right. “I so wish that I had been able to fulfill your hopes to lead the country in a different direction. But the nation chose another leader. And so Ann and I join with you to earnestly pray for him and for this great nation.”

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