Mitt Romney says he hasn't written a concession speech. Can that be true?

Mitt Romney may be, understandably, trying to project optimism to his supporters. But concession speeches are a crucial part of the democratic process. 

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney visits a campaign call center in Green Tree, Pa., Tuesday.

We are still waiting on voting results from key states, but in the meantime, we couldn’t resist commenting on a statement Mitt Romney made to reporters on his plane Tuesday evening: He said he’d “only written one speech at this point” – meaning, a victory speech, but not a concession speech.

To which we say: Really? Is he actually implying that, in the event he should lose Tuesday night, he’s just planning to cobble together a speech at the last minute? Or possibly even go out there and wing it in front of the cameras?

Actually, when we think about it, that could make for some good TV ...

Just kidding. We have to assume that Mr. Romney was either being disingenuous or picking his words very, very carefully – so that while, perhaps technically speaking, he hasn’t written a concession speech, one such speech may in fact have already been prepared by his speechwriters.

By contrast, in an interview earlier Tuesday, President Obama said he had prepared both a victory speech and a concession speech, saying: “You always have two speeches prepared because you can’t take anything for granted.”

We can’t really blame Romney for feeling the need to project optimism to his supporters. But we hope he and the president both appreciate the fact that, in many ways, the concession speech given by the election’s loser is a crucial part of the democratic process. It legitimizes the election the country has held – and it can be as important as the winner’s speech in how it works to bring the nation together.

A prime example was Al Gore’s concession speech in 2000 – which, of course, did not come on Election Night, but which was at least as memorable, if not more so, than George W. Bush’s victory speech. Calling for unity and the need to put country before party, Mr. Gore said: “I, personally, will be at [Mr. Bush’s] disposal, and I call on all Americans – I particularly urge all who stood with us – to unite behind our next president. This is America. Just as we fight hard when the stakes are high, we close ranks and come together when the contest is done.”  He added: “Now is the time to recognize that that which unites us is greater than that which divides us.”

Given the strong political divide in America, and the difficulties the next president will face – in terms of both the country’s grave fiscal challenges and the bitterness the losing side is likely to feel – the concession speech isn’t something either candidate should take lightly.

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