June 6th, 2013
04:32 PM ET
10 months 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. John Tate

    Ha! He's either a liar or a fool. Does he really expect us to believe he didn't have more money to spend than the President? At least the winner's money mostly came from small donors while Romnut's mostly came from a small number of super-wealthy. All of the trustworthy prediction polls showed who was going to win.

    June 6, 2013 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  2. Herman

    This mans is like a spoiled child. He keeps whining and whining, because he didn't get everything he wanted. Probably been this way his whole stinking life.

    June 6, 2013 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  3. Josh

    So, Mitt, you lied to America from 8:00 on, until you conceded? That's a super thing to do.

    June 6, 2013 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  4. Leo

    How long did Nixon hide away after the 1960 loss to Kennedy? I think Romney should crawl under a rock for about three times as long.

    June 6, 2013 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  5. Victor

    One thing he's good at is making himself look small. He's done nothing to show any signs of leadership since his defeat. The only thing he's done is complain about what he did, and what he wish he'd lied about to gain office. If he's what you people call conservative, you need help.

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

    hit the road mitt and take your old lady with you.

    June 6, 2013 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  7. VEW2012

    @scpearl
    Any day of the week a President who has experience in organizing a community with the knowledge they need to finds ways to benefit their community has a better handle on governance, than some self-centered business jackal who has spent his life looking out for his own self-interest. The man is so lacking in brilliance that he can't even be honest with himself.

    As for lies we've heard nothing less than the worst of lies for the last 5 years from the right and we keep hearing them...lies that even cast doubt on the President's legitimacy as a citizen.

    June 6, 2013 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  8. Rocinante

    I blame the Evangelicals. You could have elected a friend. Instead, you did nothing.

    June 6, 2013 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  9. Matthew Kilburn

    We would have ended up a lot better off if Romney – or someone with his economic and business know-how – had won the election, rather than being stuck with Obama for four more years. Someone who would have been willing to tackle the welfare state and done something to improve the business climate would have gone a long way in fixing our problems.

    But I feel a lot worse for Ann Romney than I do for Mitt (who, though he fell short of the ultimate prize, can at least look back on a good and long and successful career). I can only imagine what that kind of defeat is like to go through.

    June 6, 2013 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  10. shane

    they didn't know until 8 because they paid attention to the political polls.
    the real out come was already projected in the betting odds. obama was ahead the entire time. almost 7 time on the betting odds.

    if you want to know who the winner will be pay attention to where people are putting their money, not their words.

    June 6, 2013 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  11. Nick

    "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,"

    Seriously? You are pleading poverty!? Cry me a river Mr. Romney.
    You almost sound like one of us lowly 47%'ers.

    June 6, 2013 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  12. jc

    All a lie, Romney was told he was "not going to win" weeks earlier during the "roast" dinner with all in attendance. Silly people think they have a control in who gets elected.......

    June 6, 2013 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  13. Glauber

    I usually pride myself in having a diversity of interests, and can get interested in almost any news story. But this has to be one of the dullest pieces I've read in a long time. It's also weird that someone's trying to push all of this now.

    June 6, 2013 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  14. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Right wing loser!

    June 6, 2013 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  15. Little Bunny FuFu

    Who's this Mitt Romney guy?

    June 6, 2013 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  16. PJ

    Why doesn't he just crawl back into a hole and stay there. We don't want to see his face ever again.

    June 6, 2013 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  17. proshooter

    With the amount of whining their still doing, I guess the Romney's have never lost at anything. Life in a bubble must be a unique experience. Maybe the'll stop feeling sorry for themselves after they make another few million.Call Sheldon Adelson for help.

    June 6, 2013 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  18. meetoo

    Romney is so out of touch with working people, Republic or Democrat, and I think even the working class Republicans recognized this. "You people" touched a nerve – they consider themselves above the rabble. Romney has NO idea how the average American lives so how could he possibly be a fair president? Speaking of which, we need a Congress whose members all have to live like the average American – no retirement at last full wages, no paid-for-life medical, dental, vision benefits; no tax breaks for keeping that second or third house in D.C., and contribute to FICA and try to live off Social Security after your life savings and investments were stripped by deregulated "investment" corporations.

    June 6, 2013 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  19. How sad!

    Always the gimme-gimme Liberal loons who vote for people like Obama, bent on destroying America! They have absolutely NO capacity to think for themselves - vote based on media sound bytes - expect to be fed, clothed, housed without ever working a hard day in their lives! So when a really accomplished, honest hard-working, America-loving person like Romney come along, they simply cannot relate! How truly, truly sad for our country. But eventually the pendulum WILL swing back! Because many of us are becoming sick and tired of these freeloaders!

    June 6, 2013 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  20. Chad

    Wow, I read this interview and still just shudder to think of a world in which this man was the American president. My god. I have numerous issues with Obama and have never supported his actions 100% of the time, but a Romney presidency would have been catastrophic.

    Then I read comments like this one from kitcole: "The election was very close. I think our country would be much better off today if Romney had won – he is a financial wizard and knows business." First, the election was NOT "very close." In no way was it "very close." In fact, it wasn't even "close." It was, electorally, a near-landslide for Obama. The second statement is pure conjecture and we can agree to disagree on that one. But the last statement was the funniest of them all. Romney a "financial wizard"? That is hysterical. I nearly choked on my coffee reading that. As long as there are people like you making comments like that, the GOP will continue to limp along in its current form, desperately hoping to obfuscate or manufacture enough facts to confuse enough voters to put them back into power again.

    June 6, 2013 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  21. cbp

    Governor Romney may still feel that he is the head of the Republican Party until the next person is nominated by the party to run for President. Unfortunately there are other Republicans who believe they should be in charge. Does the party continue to move tot he right or do the members attempt to open the party to all comers. If they continue to move to the right they will lose members. Change comes very quickly when people try to hard to make policy that effects the way people live. States are trying to change laws to keep people from running their own lives. They cannot tell people who to love or who to marry. They cannot decide what religion will be acceptable, what movies people will see, what speakers may be heard, etc. People must be allowed to decide for themselves. We need to think for ourselves and decide how we will live our lives. No one can do that for us.

    June 6, 2013 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  22. Thomas

    Like OJ he is looking for the guy who is responsible. Like OJ he will not look in the mirror.

    June 6, 2013 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  23. GTA

    "I wish the hurricane didn't happen when it did..."

    When it did? Why not wish that the hurricane did not happen AT ALL!.

    June 6, 2013 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  24. mdesan

    "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,"
    So, there was a "better" time for a hurricane?

    June 6, 2013 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  25. Juliboy

    "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." Really? I already knew that once you won the GOP nomination!

    June 6, 2013 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
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