June 6th, 2013
04:32 PM ET
1 year 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. JP

    "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,"

    A real man of the people he is....its a shame the hurricane ruined his chance to be president....oh yeah....and it destroyed homes and displaced tens of thousands of people....yeah,,,,,there's that too....

    June 6, 2013 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  2. Dave

    "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."

    Romney is a "wizard" at shipping American jobs to China. That's the kind of "expertise" we can do without.

    June 6, 2013 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  3. RichardSRussell

    If they REALLY didn't know what was up until 8:00 on election night, they were further out of touch with reality than we thot.

    June 6, 2013 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  4. TK

    WOW! this loss is going to haunt romney for the rest of his life and he has no one to blame but him self but he is so arrogant and delusional he just can not blame himself for his loss. poor pathetic presidential loser

    June 6, 2013 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    Romney lost the presidency as soon as he announced his candidacy for POTUS.

    June 6, 2013 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  6. Stephanie

    Anybody would've been better than what we currently have in the whitehouse impersonating a president. Oh well, this country is the loser in this last election.

    June 6, 2013 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  7. Jocho Johnson

    LOL @ Ann Romney, she was supposed to get the First Ladyship because Mitt was buying it for her and it was her turn

    June 6, 2013 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  8. Alex Keuper

    I had to check the date of this 'article' twice. Why on earth is CNN concerned what the 2008 fail Republican candidate – oops sorry the 2012 failed Republican candidate – has to say about anything. When will the media finally come the conclusion that the Republicans didn't want to hear his views in 2008 and the rest of the country joined in to voice the same sentiment in 2012.
    Slow news day?

    June 6, 2013 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  9. Honestly

    just to be clear, did they mean 8 am or 8 pm?

    June 6, 2013 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  10. Dougie

    The far right of the party (tea bagers) scared the average voter away from the Republicans as well as the fact they had no idea how to deal with all the minorities and until they figure that out they will never be in power.

    June 6, 2013 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  11. katshark

    Wah, Wah, Wah, that is all I read in this article. Sore loser!

    June 6, 2013 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  12. Alex P

    " there's still laundry, you still have to get the groceries," she said.

    June 6, 2013 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  13. clarke

    This guy is a real piece of work and what is sad, he really believes in what he is saying. He is sorry the storm happened when it did, I am certain the people in Jersey wished it never happened at all, they lost everything. He is a very selfish man in his thoughts. He really thinks, he lost because Obama stepped up to the plate to help these poor people. That being the case, he also thinks, American voters are stupid. he is so self serving. he hasn't a clue, nor does his family.

    June 6, 2013 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  14. duh

    Mitt would have made a great President. Period.

    June 6, 2013 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  15. john

    By 8:00??? I knew months ahead that he would never beat the Electoral College and I am just some slob. Is it just arrogance? How could they think they ever had a chance........and that woman reminds me of Tammy Lynn Baker. What phony's.

    June 6, 2013 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  16. Alex Keuper

    Let's hear from Dewey too, or Nixon in 1960!! Maybe Dukakis or Gore!

    No, no, no – let's get Mary Lincoln to channel Stephen A. Douglas!

    He is about as relevant as Romney.

    June 6, 2013 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  17. Really Imean Really

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

    Seriously you want us to believe you do Laundry and get groceries. They must be thinking elections are this november..News for you.. you lost.. you need not pretend to be a middle class person

    June 6, 2013 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  18. achepotle

    I think he should have had more of his wives out campaigning for him.

    June 6, 2013 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  19. Brian from DC

    "there's still laundry, you still have to get the groceries," she said. Oh please! Anyone who believes that either of the Romneys do their own laundry and get their own groceries probably still believes in Santa Claus!

    June 6, 2013 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  20. albie

    who really cares what this guy says

    June 6, 2013 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  21. Dutchkid

    All we fiscal conservatives are trying to do is to allow the US to become the great country it used to be. Obama has given us the highest deficit of one president in history...giving handouts to people to make them dependent on government instead of giving the tools to become self sufficient...scandals...and lies that he gave during his campaign that he has not carried through with. A good speech maker does not necessarily make a good president...Yes we can? Sure you can if you want to "fundamentally transform" this country in the wrong direction. Whatever happened to earning a living the hard way (by actually working) and having less government instead of having more government whom we can not trust?? Time to clean house.

    June 6, 2013 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  22. JM

    Why is this man perpetually clueless? Nobody cares. We have forgotten about him. So much has happened in the past 7 months.

    June 6, 2013 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  23. orca17

    I find it amusing that someone who dismissed his Secret Service detail a few days early and acts as if he did the American public a favor was immediately before proposing adding 100,000 troops to the US military (I shudder to think why, since conventional warfare is essentially dead) and setting military spending at a fixed 3-4% of total tax revenue, whether there were any needs or not. It is equally humorous that someone who took a tax deduction for his prancing horse that exceeds the annual income of most American families and who owns multiple houses and has a staff of servants even pretends to understand what the average American is dealing with. His wife, who is every bit as sheltered from reality as he is, was his source of information on women's issues.

    June 6, 2013 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  24. Steve Hamilton

    Romney doesn't have a chance of winning in 2016. First he has to run the Tea Party gauntlet, and If he is chosen to run, his party's mismanagement will doom him. Who won't vote for him: women, hourly workers, moderates, poor people, moderates, Hispanics, union members, persons of color. If Hillary runs, she will beat him the same way Johnson beat Goldwater in 1964 – by a landslide. this is a sick party that won't heed suggestions from Bob Dole, Olympia Snow, Jeb Bush or college age potential Republicans. They're on the defensive and 75% of voters disapprove of the job they are doing. They might not even be relevant enough to field a candidate by 2016.

    June 6, 2013 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  25. PK

    All Republicans are anti people! They spend all their time saying "NO" and tearing apart everything proposed by the president. They are constantly plotting how to stay in office and get more GOPers into office! I would like to see the numbers on all they have opposed vs all they have agreed to. Not all people are born into money so they end up working all day long, 2 jobs just to pay the rent. But that's OK, GOP, they too have a VOTE!

    June 6, 2013 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
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