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. RobJohnson

    I'm no Romney fan, but I'll give him this: Unlike some Republicans, he understands that the President won fair and square, and the GOP needs to accept that and move on. Many of his fellow Republicans would be wise to follow his advice.

    However, I will never understand the arrogance that caused Romney to only write a victory speech, and not a concession speech. Just about everybody said this election was going to be close, and it was, but Romney was so sure of himself that the very possibility of defeat never crossed his mind.

    This man spent 6 years running for President, and arguably his whole life preparing for it, and in the end was mind-boggling wrong about the single most important event of his life. For that alone, I'm glad he is not running the country.

    June 6, 2013 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  2. Margaret

    Speaking for me I got the feeling that to him me and people like me were non people. We were considered greedy takers who want the government to support us. My husband worked more than 40 years at hard physical work. He made a decent salary and we had savings. But nothing prepares you for cancer and Alzheimer. Going back to work is not an option, but got the feeling that rich donors were more important. The people who worked hard all their lives and due to the downturn in the economy and illness are no longer important. Savings that used to make over 8% or more interest are now under 1%. When you have a choice of health insurance or eating and paying electric and water it is not a choice. That is just one reason you lost the election Mr. Romney, maybe you do care, but we did not hear it.

    June 6, 2013 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  3. meme

    IRRELEVANT. Romney's comments are Irrelevant

    June 6, 2013 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  4. Evergreen

    Funny–he is in favor of a liberal democracy in the middle east...but not here in the US?

    June 6, 2013 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  5. DocHollywood

    ...."Experts and Enthusiasts,"......LOL. What's Romney doing at that conference? He's neither an expert or very enthusiastic. It should be called 'Deniers and Whiners". Now, go home Mitt.....just go home.

    June 7, 2013 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  6. Bob

    He lost because our country is becoming a bunch of takers, and takers will vote for people that will give them stuff for doing nothing. Why do dems want immigration "reform"? We need more takers to finish the job. Eventually those of us that are actually productive and pay taxes will be too outnumbered to keep it up. Good luck then.

    June 7, 2013 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  7. sonnie3

    Would America and her Freedoms and Liberties be better off with Romney? As storm'n Norman would say
    I gol dam guarantee you we would be better off. All obama know is tax and spend/ and ain't got a clue what make the economy work. It Ain't Big Government, Cause when they run out of other peoples money, they will be sol.
    Anybody would be better than obama, for one they might not lie as much, or stone wall or hide by saying I did know a thing about it??

    June 7, 2013 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  8. Jim g

    Romney cold have been the President of the United States except the Tea Party got in his way. If he would have run on his record without bending over for the Tea Party, he would most likely be in the White House and not saying what if..... Lesson is...stay who you are do not bend over for special interest, especially those in the minority. Most Americans voted against the Tea Party and Romney because he could not control them, but they controlled him. So whatever he has to say is to be judged by his platform of 2012, and it was rejected by the majority of the American citizens.

    June 7, 2013 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  9. All You Knuckle Heads

    As long as you post comments and talk party politics – you are so far off base. NONE of our elected officials do anything to benefit The American People...unless they first secure their own benefits. As long as we have lobbyists, corporate donors and political nepotism we are all screwed. We are taxed on everything and do not have a balanced budget. Our national debt grows by an average of $2.71 billion per day. We don't need Health Care Program without the money to pay for it. Why don't our officials have the same GREAT HEALTH CARE Plan? ? Our government is supposed to be by the people and for the people – yet we the people do not hold our elected officials accountable for their poor performance and inability to take care of our needs.

    June 7, 2013 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  10. Brian

    He says he knew he'd lost by 8 pm (assuming he means EST). Funny, I was cracking up listening to Rush Limbaugh challenging the call of Ohio for Obama a good 3 hours later.

    June 7, 2013 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  11. dina

    Please stop covering this man.He is a looser.Why is he still out there. He needs to go away.He lost the election and has no relevance to the real world of people with less money than he has.Remember the 47%.

    June 7, 2013 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
  12. Donkey Party

    The most ignorant comments on this thread are from the right-wing filth that dwells in Texas and SC. Go figure...

    June 7, 2013 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
  13. menotyou

    Still disgusting, these two. And the funniest thing I heard about Anne Romney is that she already hired an interior designer to come up with her own decor for the White House. Such a shallow family.

    June 7, 2013 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  14. Brian

    I STILL laugh like crazy over how distorted the Republican internal polls were, and how insistent they were that it was everyone else's polls that were wrong. Even so, they had no justification for being so confident as to not have a concession speech written. Even if Romney had won FL, VA, CO, and NH (states their polls showed them winning) and IA (where their polls showed a tie), Obama STILL wins 271-267. Even with all their distorted polls, they still would have needed one state where they thought they were behind in order to win.

    June 7, 2013 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  15. sandra

    Every day is a good day because he is not president.

    June 7, 2013 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  16. Ruth C

    I think Ill name my next cat "Mittens"

    June 7, 2013 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  17. JIM FAWCETT

    Typical Mormon: arrogant, liar, excuse maker. Other famous Mormon liars: Jody Arias, Ted Bundy, Warren Jeffs, E. Gordon Gee.

    June 7, 2013 12:43 am at 12:43 am |
  18. qqqqqjim

    Just go away and shut up. Maybe a bunch of old white, rich, right wing guys care, but nobody else does.

    June 7, 2013 12:46 am at 12:46 am |
  19. Spine

    I only wish Romney had run on his record of being a moderate, business friendly, pro healthcare, pro gun control eastern republican.

    June 7, 2013 12:48 am at 12:48 am |
  20. lynjsj

    "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.
    ----------
    It would have been better if the hurricane was a week late with people getting killed, maimed and losing everything?

    Again foot in mouth.

    June 7, 2013 12:48 am at 12:48 am |
  21. maxx

    "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,"

    Beats bushisms all hands down. Then again, this doesn't even qualify as a gaffe.

    June 7, 2013 12:52 am at 12:52 am |
  22. AC

    All these comments show how mean the liberals are. Mitt Romney fought an election from the other side and lost. Why do you need to spew such hatred?

    June 7, 2013 01:04 am at 1:04 am |
  23. john williaims

    I think if the Republicans want a real shot at getting back in the white house, it's going to be someone like Christie. The problem for the Republicans is the fact that Christie isn't a hard core conservative. If they want back in, that's what it's going to take.

    June 7, 2013 01:06 am at 1:06 am |
  24. Julia Jester

    Romney lied the entire election and he's lying now.Republicans are nothing but liars.Thank God Obama was re-elected!

    June 7, 2013 01:08 am at 1:08 am |
  25. real. ja.

    Romney Who?

    June 7, 2013 01:09 am at 1:09 am |
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