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. kandw101

    Please go away, thank you!

    June 7, 2013 05:30 am at 5:30 am |
  2. Sane Person

    Ha! Except Romney spent 992M on the campaign to Obama's 985.7M. Mittens is either a bad money manager or simply can't count. Most likely, its just another lie he tells to make himself feel better. Good riddance.

    June 7, 2013 05:37 am at 5:37 am |
  3. a_writer

    This guy still haven't come around to accept the fact that majority of the people thought he would make a lousy president. All these interviews only reinforces the fact that the American people chose wisely in the last presidential elections.

    June 7, 2013 05:41 am at 5:41 am |
  4. enuf

    Romney lost because he was dishonest and that dishonesty shines brightly. He was for the Affordable Care Act – before he was against it. He was for Gun Control – before he was against it. He displayed contempt for Americans below his lofty station in life. Romney's only demonstrable belief is to Win and Make Money.

    That's what Romney supporters never understood. He is not a conservative or a liberal or any other political doctrine. He's an investor, a high flying corporate gambler. The only moral code such people display is that of winning, whatever it takes.

    I did not want Obama, but a Romney Presidency was a whole lot scarier.

    June 7, 2013 05:45 am at 5:45 am |
  5. marie

    Romney you lost, give it up. Your reasoning is absurd. The press needs to stop interviewing him, we don't care what he says.

    June 7, 2013 05:53 am at 5:53 am |
  6. M.A.P.

    He had the money and we didn't. Really Mitt? Are you joking? After all the super PACS you had, Trump, Koch brothers, Ruperd Murdoch basically paying for 24 hour Republican propoganda and you still think it was about money? This is just too annoying to be funny, but seriously I hope a lot of people that voted for you now realize what an out of touch self centered loser you are.

    June 7, 2013 06:02 am at 6:02 am |
  7. Cynthia

    "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.

    That's baloney. I remember Romney attracting much more campaign funds.

    However the excessive campaign funds he collected were from few but rich contributors.
    Obama's lesser campaiign funds were collected from a larger number of small sum contributions.

    So, the question he should ask the future Republican nominee -
    Should you fashion your campaign to collect contributions from alot of people who give a little
    vs
    Should your campaign attract a little contributors who give alot of money
    ??

    As history proves repeatedly, the poor widow who gives all she has is more dedicated than the rich man who gave alot but only a pittance of all he had. And Gd will bless and make the wishes of all those poor contributors come true.

    June 7, 2013 06:12 am at 6:12 am |
  8. Jason

    Why are these two fools still in the news? Everyone but them and their cronies knew is was over before the first ballot was cast. They didn't know until polls were about ready to close? Clueless. Simply clueless.

    June 7, 2013 06:18 am at 6:18 am |
  9. JOE B

    II found this article to be meaningless but I guess, 47% of the people found it interesting.

    June 7, 2013 06:18 am at 6:18 am |
  10. Marie MD

    Christ Almighty, WHO CARES!?!?!?!?!?!?!?
    Is this failed politician, animal abuser, overseas money hoarder, car elevator rich boy, 47% can go to heck, doesn't know the difference of barbed wire in or out in one of his sweat shops in China.
    He lost and all the billions thrown and wasted his way couldn't help him. Take a permanent trip to CA and live in that little mansion of yours. You can spend your time counting your ill gotten money on the backs of Americans who lost their jobs thanks to you and play car up, car down with your garage elevator.

    June 7, 2013 06:27 am at 6:27 am |
  11. Thatguy371

    Gee, where to start? Let's just say the repubs got a perfect match for their delusion line of thinking when Romney got in there as the "R" candidate. This for a (thankfully) dwindling portion of the electorate who have no rules for voting except that there's an R beside the name. Qualifications? Record? Who care? He's an R! And as far as the person, what a delusional out of touch person of the lowest order. Hates the poor, blames Obama for (supposedly) outspending him and causing his loss – not Romney – no, he wasn't the reason. And the story goes on and on. If you look in the dictionary under irrelevant, there's his mug.

    June 7, 2013 06:57 am at 6:57 am |
  12. JimNasium

    "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...

    Yes, the tragedy of hurricane Sandy is that it gave the president a chance to be presidential. Why, oh why, couldn't that hurricane have devastated NY/Nj a couple of weeks later?

    June 7, 2013 07:03 am at 7:03 am |
  13. Matt

    "What went wrong?" Two key things:

    He and the Republican Party misjudged just how much animosity the electorate feels these days against people who have been more successful than themselves.

    The Republican Party elites once again forced a "centrist" onto the base, on the misguided theory that only a centrist could attract independent votes needed to win the general election. Even though the theory has not worked since the first George Bush.

    June 7, 2013 07:10 am at 7:10 am |
  14. N&W 1000

    Mitt Romney is a WUSS; he let the Democrats define him as a murderer, a tax cheat, etc....and never made a peep, until it

    was way too late and the impression had set in, then that debate where he could have exposed Obama for the fiasco in

    Benghazi, i.e., WHERE was Obama for the EIGHT HOURS the night of the attack and murders, that nobody will tell us,

    and finally he completely disappeared during Hurricane Sandy.

    June 7, 2013 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  15. Anonymous

    Ugh you guys are pathetic it seems like the comments are some place for a liberal underground. Although I guess my grandpa was right, liberals talk their way out lf things because they are all insecure.

    June 7, 2013 07:15 am at 7:15 am |
  16. sanityrules

    This was a good interview. Romney has a lot of class and was a very gracious loser.

    June 7, 2013 07:18 am at 7:18 am |
  17. icoisman

    Am so glad the flip flooper didnt win. It was a scary to think he could of been running the country. This guy brought on his own loss by the way he conducted him self. For sure he would of took the country into another war.

    June 7, 2013 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  18. Hammerdown

    You lost because of the message.
    Find any excuse you can, but giving us more of the same
    is why you lost.
    your handlers convinced you they had BAUGHT the election.
    You didn't write a speech for losing because you are arrogant.

    June 7, 2013 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  19. Kgh

    He's dillusional. It was clear WEEKS before the election that the electoral map was not moving in his favor. Any kids with a 6th grade education could have figured that out.

    If he ran like he did when he ran for governor, he would have had a chance. This is a nation of centrists and that was how he governed.

    June 7, 2013 07:23 am at 7:23 am |
  20. Greg

    " I wish the hurricaine hadnt have happened when it did because it gave the president...."
    Unbeleivable the gall of this guy. How about he wished it had not happened at ALL. What a moron. So glad he lost.

    June 7, 2013 07:24 am at 7:24 am |
  21. jmcalli

    Romney said, "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."

    BS. Romney had a huge amount of money, comparable to the Democrats. They wasted money on crazy consultants (e.g., Karl Rove) and others who they paid to tell them what they wanted to hear.

    June 7, 2013 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  22. New Jersey

    Hurricane Sandy was an inconvenience for you ?

    June 7, 2013 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  23. Chuck

    You know. I don't know if it was just wishful thinking or willful ignorance on Romney's part but every poll of poll statistical site had him losing for weeks leading up to the election. Sandy, Christie, etc. made very little difference. If anything, we should be praising Christie on his ability to work with both sides and put politics on the back burner when it's obvious it isn't appropriate. It's why the guy has a 70% approval rating in a blue state. The GOP should be learning from him instead of criticizing him.

    June 7, 2013 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  24. Fearless Freep

    Republicans have gone so far to the right
    they couldn't see the center with binoculars.

    June 7, 2013 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
  25. Switters

    Talking about what went wrong, Romney said they didn't get the turnout from minority voters that they needed....

    Really...are you kidding me......really..................?

    June 7, 2013 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21