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We’re supposed to believe that Mitt Romney didn’t really want to run for president? Puh-leeze!

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Dan Balz of the Washington Post is a former neighbor and childhood friend of mine. He’s also one of the best political reporters in the business, which is why I don’t blame him for a certain dubious tale in his new book about the 2012 presidential campaign.

Balz isn’t the prevaricator in this case. He’s just passing along Mitt Romney’s claim that he didn’t want to run for president last year.

The claim sounds to me like one of Romney’s excuses for having lost. It’s like saying: If my heart had been in it from the get-go, I would have won in a landslide.

Here’s Sam Stein’s TAKE on Balz’s book — including a fascinating little tidbit about how Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan was supremely confident of victory on Election Day:

Over the Christmas break of 2010, Mitt Romney and his family took an internal poll on whether he should run for president once more. Twelve family members cast ballots. Ten said no. One of the 10 was Mitt Romney himself.

The doubts that the former Massachusetts governor harbored before ultimately launching his second unsuccessful bid for the presidency are one of several attention-grabbing details in “Collision 2012,” the newest book on the 2012 campaign.

Written by The Washington Post’s Dan Balz, the book is set to go on sale Aug. 6…The Huffington Post obtained a copy on Monday.

Meticulously reported, Balz’s subject is the entire 2012 presidential contest. But the main drama is the Republican primary…And the chief protagonist is just one of the candidates: Romney.

As Balz reports, Romney suffered far more from political cold feet than was previously known. When his family gathers in Hawaii on that Christmas break, he’s worried about the personal toll another campaign would take and whether Republican politics had become completely unsympathetic to a candidate with his background…

In an interview with Balz that’s placed at the very end of “Collision 2012,” Romney explained that he ultimately decided to run when he saw the other (leaving-something-to-be-desired) candidates in the GOP field.

“I didn’t think that any one of them had a good chance of defeating the president,” he told Balz, “and in some cases I thought that they lacked the experience and perspective necessary to do what was essential to get the country on track.”

Coming from one of the most respected reporters in politics, Balz’s account is perhaps the most highly anticipated of the 2012 campaign retrospective genre. His book on 2008 — “The Battle for America: The Story of an Extraordinary Election” -– didn’t get the accolades (or HBO movie) that “Game Change” did. But campaign veterans regarded it as the definitive take on that race…

Balz’s look into last year’s Republican primary is both substantive in its analysis of conservative politics and entertaining with its richly reported anecdotes.

(Snip)

By the time Election Day approached, Romney was confident he was going to win, as was widely reported. But Balz adds another gem to the story line: Vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan was even more confident.

As he was preparing to fly to Boston in the later afternoon of Election Day, he was openly talking about resigning his chairmanship of the House Budget Committee immediately after the election and was already thinking of possible replacements to head the committee during the budget fight coming in the lame-duck session.

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