June 6th, 2013
04:32 PM ET
2 years ago

Romney talks Christie, IRS, 2016

(CNN) - Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said he has no ill will towards Gov. Chris Christie and weighed in on other flashbacks from the 2012 campaign in a wide-ranging interview with CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger.

The former Massachusetts governor also offered sharp criticism of the Obama administration over the recent Internal Revenue Service controversy and gave his thoughts on some potential 2016 presidential contenders.

Romney sat down with Borger this week in Park City, Utah, where he's holding a multi-day conference that features several prospective presidential candidates, as well as other national leaders with some of the party's major donors also in attendance.

Romney hopes this meeting, called "Experts and Enthusiasts," will allow the approximately 200 attendees to discuss the nation's problems and possible solutions in a different forum.

But it was just seven months ago on November 6 when Romney had a much more public life and was waiting to hear whether he'd become the next president of the United States.

Outsized 10:1

The former candidate and his wife, Ann, said they went into the day certain that they would be celebrating victory later that night. As they saw the numbers trickle in, however, doubts began to set in.

"I think at 6:00, I was really worried," Ann Romney said. "By 8:00, I think we knew it was - it wasn't going well."

"We were together," Mitt Romney added. "And I said, boy, the exit polls are not good. And Ann said don't worry, we're going to win. And I said, well, we'll - we'll watch. And the numbers came in and you don't know immediately, because the numbers were close. And you don't know until the last counties are counted."

So sure he would win, Romney said he did not plan a losing speech. "I'd written a very good winning speech."

Read more: Romney regrets 47% comments

Talking about what went wrong, Romney said they didn't get the turnout from minority voters that they needed and he acknowledged his campaign was outmatched by his opponent's massive organization.

"I think he had as many as 10 times the number of ground workers, paid staff, that we had, because he could afford them and we couldn't," he said.

Asked what they did the next morning, Ann Romney said they spent time with their family but mostly returned to routine activities for the first time in a year and a half.

"Life goes on. It's just amazing. I mean you still - there's still laundry, you still have to get the groceries," she said.

While their Secret Service detail was supposed to stay with them for at least a full week after the election, the Romneys declined, saying they didn't want taxpayers picking up the tab any longer.

Within days, their circle of campaign staff, reporters and security agents had vanished.

"It was the two of us," Mitt Romney said, adding that their son Tagg and his family live only a mile away in Belmont, Massachusetts.

All is well between Romney and Christie

Less than a week before Election Day, a devastating storm–Superstorm Sandy–slammed into the northeast coast and caused massive destruction and took the lives of more than 100 people.

Both candidates took a break from the campaign, and Obama flew to New Jersey to survey the damage. Republican Gov. Chris Christie, a top surrogate for Romney, publicly embraced the president and stuck by his side as they toured the destroyed parts of the coast.

Some Republicans unleashed sharp criticism against Christie, hounding the Republican for appearing so close the president and bolstering Obama's image just days before voters were to head for the ballots.

Christie has since stood by his decision to be seen with Obama and invited the president against last month.

Asked if he blames Christie at all for the final results, Romney repeatedly said "no."

"I wish the hurricane hadn't have happened when it did because it gave the president a chance to be presidential and to be out showing sympathy for folks," Romney said, looking at the storm through a political lens. "That's one of the advantages of incumbency. But, you know, you don't look back and worry about each little thing and how could that have been different."

Pressed later about Christie's 2016 potential, Romney said the Republican has proved he's been a "very effective" governor in dealing with the hurricane and working with a Democratic legislature in a Democratic state.

"You have to look at Chris and say this is a guy who's been a very effective governor and has a great potential for leadership," Romney said.

Romney on 'three different Republicans' - and Clinton

But what about other potential White House candidates?

On Rep. Paul Ryan, his former running mate and House Budget Committee chair: "Oh, I love Paul. I mean I will always have a very special feeling for Paul, because I think he was one of the great vice presidential nominees in history. I think he would have been a terrific vice president. I don't have any idea whether he has presidential aspirations."

On Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky: "Rand is also a very strong emerging voice in the Republican Party. Represents a different, if you will, vocal group within the party that's having a real impact.

"And with those three that happen to all be coming (Christie, Ryan and Paul), you're going to see three very different Republicans - one a governor, one a member of Congress who's a conservative, a long-term conservative; another who represents a more libertarian wing of our party. And each presenting their views about priorities. It's going to give us a chance to hear from all three and decide from - for ourselves what we think the right path will be."

On former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: "Secretary Clinton's challenge will not just be Benghazi, but more the record of American foreign policy over the last four years, while she was secretary of state.

"We'll look at everything from North Korea to Iran to Pakistan, to Afghanistan, to Syria, to Egypt and you look across the world, and our prospects - the prospects for stability, for liberal democracy, for freedom, have retreated over the period of her administration in the Department of State. And I think that's something that - that it will be a challenge for her."

Would a 2012 IRS scandal have changed the election?

Asked about one of the biggest stories of the day - the IRS' admitted targeting of tea party and conservative groups that sought tax-exempt status - Romney said the incident was a "breach of trust" and argued the administration was purposely keeping the controversy under wraps during the campaign.

"I think they certainly hid the activities of targeting conservative groups. Otherwise, there would have been a hue and outcry about it," he said.

Romney did not go as far as saying the line of fault runs all the way up to the president's desk-as some other Republicans are attempting to prove-but said "time will tell" on who was involved.

Read more: Mitt Romney to CNN: Rice appointment ‘disappointing’

Asked if he thinks it would have changed the outcome of the election had the public known about it, Romney said the results were so close–51% to 47%–that "a number of things could have changed the outcome."

"Again, you don't look back and say, oh, couldn't we have just changed this?" he said "The president won. I congratulate his campaign team on having won. That's the nature of politics is winning. They won. Nice work. And let's get on with it."

Romney says 'self-deportation' was 'overtaken'

Another issue in the Washington spotlight is immigration. Romney was famously known for saying in the GOP primary that he supported a policy of self-deportation, in which undocumented immigrants would voluntarily return to their countries and apply for legal re-entry.

Since the election loss, many Republicans have noted his comments as having a damaging effect on the party's image and some in the party have taken an aggressive approach to tackle immigration reform.

In the interview, Romney attempted to clarify what he meant by the term.

"It's interesting how the opposition campaign made a big deal of that. Self-deportation is as opposed to government deportation. The government deports people. Now, my view was that people should make their own choice. And so, people say, oh, he's for self-deportation, it sounds very, very, unkind."

Romney said his plan was "overtaken by events." While he favors some of the current proposals and disagrees with others, the Republican acknowledged "it's not my choice at this stage."

"But let's deal with the 11 million, and let's reform the legal system so the millions who are in line can understand how to get here legally and we can bring in those people that our economy needs and, frankly, that families we'd like to have reunited to come in legally," he said.

– CNN's Ashley Killough and Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.


Filed under: 2012 • 2016 • Chris Christie • IRS • Mitt Romney
soundoff (522 Responses)
  1. DH

    The Repubs really do not get it. The GOP would throw their fellow repubs under the bus if they got in the way. They have zero plans for our country, just chaos, more hearings (some are needed-not Benghazi !) and the 40th veto of obamacare.

    The items Americans want on the GOP/repub agenda are a BUDGET and JOBS, JOBS, JOBS. That is the presidents agenda.

    June 6, 2013 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  2. laughingalltheway

    what a doofus. They think they were supposed to get a better turn out from minority voters? Why? Because Ann Romney said that Latinos are the ones with the problem, not the GOP? "It's not us, it's just that you losers don't understand how AWESOME it is to be Republican" didn't turn into a bunch votes and they are surprised? They are totally out of touch.
    I still can't believe the audacity of not preparing a concession speech. Talk about drinking nothing but your own Kool Aid.

    June 6, 2013 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  3. sophistry

    Great interview. Not sure he's personal or open enough to be a politician but he was very classy and statesmanlike.

    June 6, 2013 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  4. strangerq

    The election was very close. I think our country would be much better off today if Romney had won – he is a financial wizard .....

    ^ don't make me laugh. he wasted twice as much money buying 1/2 the TV ads as Obama.

    He invested in technology (Orca) without understanding it.

    He was completely out organized by the President and his own campaign managers admit it.

    Romney isn't even in the same class as Obama – who know has the stock market at record highs and has created over 7 million new jobs, saved the auto industry, ended the Iraq War, reduced green house gas and energy use while increasing energy production.

    And even passed "Romney-Care" (aka ObamaCAre) as well.

    Their is no reason for pretending Romney would have been a "better" President except via delusional partisanship.

    June 6, 2013 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  5. Carol

    Why can't he just face the fact that he's a loser and stop expressing his opinions publicly. No one really cares.

    June 6, 2013 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  6. DHR

    His explanation of Self Deportation still is offensive! He and his wife are still clueless! I am sure she went back to doing laundry and grocery shopping. More like, "Connie, we need groceries and while your at it can you finish the laundry and pick up my dry cleaning, I have a CNN interview to give tomorrow." So what if he is a wizard with money. Thomas Jefferson was a wizard with money as well. Oh wait. Didn't Thomas Jefferson make most of his money as a slave holder? Disappear Mittens, your 5 minutes have been up.

    June 6, 2013 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  7. The King

    I knew when I saw the crop of GOP losers running in their primary. You could have put them all on the ballot, and Obama would have won.

    June 6, 2013 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  8. Joe Smith

    A whole lot of makeup....that guy is creepy...his voice sends shivers up my spine. I just bought a new house and his band of LDSers were stalking me for days. Until they finally found me with my garage door open. They cruised right up to my garage and started giving me their line. Too bad I don't live in Texas.... Democrat, Republican, Independent....thank the real God that man is not president!

    June 6, 2013 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  9. shazzam

    "I wish the hurricane hadn't have happened when it did because it gave the president a chance to be presidential and to be out showing sympathy for folks."

    This dude is a robot, no emotions. "I wish it happened after I was elected. If it was not for the hurricane I would have won. 100 died? Really? so sad. Anyways, what was I saying, oh yes, that darn hurricane"

    I

    WOW just wow!

    June 6, 2013 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  10. RSVP

    Who cares what his opinion is?

    June 6, 2013 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  11. gorgegirl

    Romney had a problem connecting with workers in the "REAL" world. Things he would say that sounded that communicated that like the remarks at NASCAR about the cheap raincoats, the "Seven-Eleven cookies" – insulting comments to citizens that put them down.

    The guy doesn't get it yet. It wasn't JUST the 47% statement he made on that tape, but the acknowledgement that he bought a factory in China with workers, surrounded by barbed wire fence and armed guards. That is where he outsourced American jobs making small appliances. Yet, he tried to convince his donors that the armed guards were to keep people "out" not "in". Anybody that gullible shouldn't be president. We regular folks got the message loud and clear.

    June 6, 2013 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  12. Truth Today

    When do we ask advice about winning a Presidential election from the loser? Am I being too race conscious if I ask if this only occurs in "America" when the loser is a White Male and the winner is a Black Male? I am just asking.

    June 6, 2013 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  13. VoteForPedro

    Romney is an id1ot. Ryan was no help- he didn't carry WI and even his own county, voted for Obama. If Ryan, Paul and Rubio are the GOP next big "stars". Might as well mail-in 2016 and forfeit the election. Save everyone a bunch if time and money!

    June 6, 2013 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  14. atroy

    "I wish the hurricane hadn't have happened when it did because it gave the president a chance to be presidential and to be out showing sympathy for folks,"

    Unlike Mitt's sympathy for how it affected his campaign and not the 100 people who died.

    June 6, 2013 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  15. steve s

    Wow so many sore winners. Obama won let's keep enjoying his term. There will be plenty more scandals, financial losses, and PPACA kicks in full swing in only a few months. Lots of great government subsidized programs. Hey the Zimmerman trial is coming up. Maybe we can hear some more wisdom from the leader to create even more division. Romney's a loser but seems to have a great family life, many business successes, seems happy to me but your right he is a selfish whiner. No chance he was just a guy who honestly cared about the direction of the country. We are so blessed to have so many super intelligent liberals to help us through the storms. Superior Intellect and selflessness how lucky we are.

    June 6, 2013 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  16. sick of republican phonies

    As ignorant and blind as ever if he thinks he lost because he didn't get the minority turnout he expected (!) and because Obama's campaign workers outnumbered his. Maybe it was, oh I dunno, your philosophy and the things you said and republicans stand for?

    June 6, 2013 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  17. Tierney

    "I wish the hurricane hadn't have happened when it did because it gave the president a chance to be presidential and to be out showing sympathy for folks," Romney said

    Seriously? How about it hadn't happened? How about wishing people hadn't lost their lives, their homes, their livelihoods? That's the difference between being a president and being semi-present.

    June 6, 2013 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  18. Rand2016

    Romney is a class act. Nothing else to say.

    Rand Paul 2016.

    June 6, 2013 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  19. Jacko

    8 o'clock??? I new the minute he picked that big-spending career politician from Wisco who wanted to cut Social Security. Gawiser 101: don't go to Florida and talk about cutting Social Security. If you can't take Florida, or even your home state, you are sunk. Kinda outta touch on the numbers, eh? If you can't have your Veep bring electoral votes, you are done (Gawiser 102).

    June 6, 2013 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  20. Jackie

    Mitt lost because he thought he brought the election with the people he paid like he does as a businessman. He is deep rooted racist and elitist who looks down on people who are not wealthy. He knows nothing about Foreign Policy or countries as he made a complete fool of himself on this World tour. His degrading of women will be remembered with the binders for women. As to the IRS Mitt knows he hasn't paid taxes in 12 years and stores his money in off shore accounts. As for his love for Rand Paul its all about the cuckoo Tea Party vote and Christi is a Soprano and has no class to lead anyone. Mitt is hoping to be the candidate again but nothing has changed and he showed after losing the election he turned his back on the United States and the people. The stab in the back was when he told President Obama that 12 million job plan was just used for votes he had no plan.

    June 6, 2013 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  21. pchelp, Juneau, AK

    "I think he had as many as 10 times the number of ground workers, paid staff, that we had, because he could afford them and we couldn't," I'd like somebody to check on this. I think it's a lie because I seem to recall one of the issues of the campaign being Romney's ability to raise more money than Obama. Not to mention availability of his personal fortune-but perhaps the issue isn't what he raised but what he spent. Does anybody know if his personal fortune 'mysteriously' increased during/shortly after the campaign?

    June 6, 2013 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  22. judith

    Oh, yes I bet Ann Romney does her own laundry and her own grocery shopping; no doubt having to worry about the cost at the local Ralph's. These two make me utterly sick at their attempt to portray themselves as anything other than horribly over-privileged plutocrats. These two are so out of touch with the struggles of ordinary people, they might as well be living on the planet Pluto–and he bemoans the fact that he couldn't get minorities to turn out for him. Crybaby!

    June 6, 2013 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  23. Awda

    Would someone please launch the Romneys, Newt Gingrich into space?! Oh, and send that guy from Texas and the religious nut...what were their names ? Oh yeah, Perry the Eagle Scout, and Santorum – the sanctimonious choir boy. Send them, too (they can all join Justin Bieber). This is one embarrassed Republican who wishes the Republican Party would grow up, stop whining, and find someone among the ranks who will help the country. Keep going the way you are now, and we'll become a one-part system – Democrat.

    June 6, 2013 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  24. bigdaddy

    Obamas could pay for ground workers but the Billionaires couldn't afford them? Do I smell a little B.S.You lost.You alienated women.You were going to do the same thing that didn't work 15 years ago and the thing that didn't work 5 years ago and so on.Our POTUS has done so little.We were in a catch 22.I voted out on a limb for Gov.Gary Johnson.I could never vote for a man who used the word "Witchcraft Medicine" when talking about medical cannabis and the video we all saw of him brow beating a man in a wheelchair who "had the nerve" to ask him about medical pot.Go back to the stone age,

    June 6, 2013 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  25. timelord7202

    Shouldn't he be working at Bain Capital, offshoring more jobs, pocketing the difference as "profit" for himself, while taking every taxpayer-funded subsidy his antis0cialist heart desires?

    June 6, 2013 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
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