Romney's loss ends White House dreams
Defeat • Republican candidate also had carried hopes of members of the Mormon church.
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Boston • Mitt Romney's long-sought dream of winning the presidency, an extension of his late father's and many Mormons worldwide, ended Tuesday when President Barack Obama won re-election in a tough, bitter and down-to-the-wire election.

After two tries and six years seeking the White House, Romney conceded the loss before once-hopeful revelers here at his Boston election party who had turned grim with key states tipping to the president.

"I so wish that I had been able to fulfill your hopes to lead the country in a different direction," Romney said in a brief late-night address. "But the nation chose another leader and so Ann and I join with you to earnestly pray for him and for this great nation."

Romney supporters — especially those in Utah where the Republican candidate and member of the Mormon church was likely to earn his strongest showing — faced the loss with tears.

"I don't want to start crying," said Robin Devey of Orem at the Utah Republican Party election event, fishing a hankie from her purse. "It's just that I'm concerned [Obama is] destroying our nation. He's done nothing good for our nation."

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who was easily winning re-election, said he would "grieve" Romney's loss "because he's exactly what American needs at this time and we're so divided. I'm surprised the rest of the country can't see in him what all of us in Utah do."

For Kirk Jowers, the head of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics and a long-time Romney friend, the loss stung even though Jowers said Romney was "the best candidate he could be" and had given his all.

"Romney supporters like me are devastated by the loss but hope that we'll continue to hear his voice on important issues going forward," Jowers said. "He has become a leader of the Republican Party and will continue to fill that void, especially on issues of economy and job growth."

Romney — a sixth-generation Mormon who through his campaigns has become one of the most well-known members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — had ginned up an exuberance unseen among the faithful for a presidential candidate in modern times.

Although Romney wasn't the first, and isn't likely to be the last, Mormon to run for the White House, he was considered the faith's best chance so far— and ending up on the losing side once again denies the faith a watershed moment like President John F. Kennedy brought Catholics in 1960.

But in a race where Romney's faith wasn't a huge liability — almost a non-existent issue in the general election — even a failing bid may have helped educate millions of Americans about the Mormon church and eradicated some long-held misunderstandings.

"The nation has now been introduced to Mormonism and found out it is not as scary as perhaps previously believed," said Jana Riess, a Mormon author from Ohio. "That's a good thing overall. That's very positive for the long-term assimilation of Mormons in America."

Romney could take to heart that he made it farther in the presidential race than his father, George Romney, who in 1968 dropped his bid and wrote his son, then on a church mission in France, to inform him about the defeat in the primary races.

The younger Romney — who parlayed business success into leading the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and then into the Massachusetts governor's office — failed, too, in his first White House run only to storm back this time around to nab the nomination.

Hope was alive earlier Tuesday at the Boston convention center that was decked out in Romney signs as supporters gathered in a small ballroom.

Cheers erupted when states were called for Romney, and deafening silence followed when others went to Obama. The mood darkened as the night went on, supporters started streaming out and business at the bar picked up.

A wake-like atmosphere settled in.

tburr@sltrib.com

Judy Fahys contributed to this report.