Walking to Mitt Romney’s hotel room on election night, down a hallway that wasn’t long enough, I found myself asking the sorts of probing questions that an industry of self-help experts argue are essential to a well-led life: When was the last time I’d really been happy? What was it that I really cared about in life? Those experts may tell you such riddles open a path to happiness, but I had long suspected that they were employed mostly by those who believe—really, really believe—that the love of their life is just waiting on Match.com. I couldn’t remember ever asking myself questions like this on a night when we’d won. I suppose I’d always thought self-examination and introspection were what losers did instead of celebrating.
It had been a long campaign. I had turned 60 on a campaign plane a couple of weeks earlier, an event I’d made sure no one “celebrated.” But it wasn’t really me or my birthday I was thinking about; it was my father’s. In six weeks or so, he would turn 95.
Ninety-five is a pretty unimaginable number, but then turning 60 was a baffling notion as well. In the long hours after concession, waiting for the sun to come up to muddle through the inevitable awful day after, I suddenly realized I had an answer to one of the perennial campaign questions, “What do you plan to do after the race?” This had always been an easy question for me because, win or lose, I knew what I’d do: another campaign. I had never been interested in working in government of any sort and was confident I’d be terrible at the effort, even if it had appeal. I was one of those guys whose usefulness, if any, was in the taking of Baghdad, not the running of it.