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. GO_GOP

    What a great man. I only wish he could be our president. He, with his intelligence, his understanding of the economy and most importantly his conservatism would have taken out the country from the mess we are in. And yes he is many many times better than the pretender we have in office today.

    June 7, 2013 07:39 am at 7:39 am |
  2. Don DaMiddle

    The Romney's "knew by 8:00".
    America "knew"...
    the second Romney signed a "PAC PLedge" to serve a Lobbyist BEFORE HIS COUNTRY.
    The authority and integrity of our presidency... IS NOT FOR SALE!

    June 7, 2013 07:47 am at 7:47 am |
  3. Stephanie

    Why are we still seeing this sore loser's mug on CNN and elsewhere?

    June 7, 2013 07:48 am at 7:48 am |
  4. The NRA is a T e r r o r i st organisation....and MORE JOBS has been created under President Obama 2times over than under GW Bush!!! ***FACT***

    With all of the money.............

    Mitt Robme spent = $992 Million
    Sheldon Adelson spent = $100 Million
    Karl Rove spent other people's money = $100 Million
    Donald Trump spent = $0 dollars, but was running his mouth about birth certificate!

    Yet they couldn't defeat this no-birth certificate anti American socialist muslim colonialist big spending liberial Presdent Obama? Lol

    June 7, 2013 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  5. lifesabeachobx

    "....Romney's reminds me of the GOP effort of trying to rebrand itself by spewing the same bs over and over."

    And you......are no different.

    June 7, 2013 07:58 am at 7:58 am |
  6. Kris

    Millions and Millions of dollars and he couldn't afford a ground crew? He didn't have as many people on the ground beccause not as many people wanted to support him as president. Period. Still delusional!

    June 7, 2013 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
  7. John Couri

    Does this man ever hear what comes out of his mouth??? "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......really?? How about I wish the hurricane hadn't have happened and end it there! There isn't a drop of sincerity in his blood.

    John C

    June 7, 2013 08:05 am at 8:05 am |
  8. Fearless Freep

    I feel so bad for these two.
    Making those tuff decisions.
    Lobster or steak.
    Oh, the agony.

    June 7, 2013 08:07 am at 8:07 am |
  9. K. in MIami

    Why is it that when Republicans lose elections, the loser never seems to go away.....?

    June 7, 2013 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  10. Ol' Lefty

    Why are people still worried about what this guy thinks? Even Republicans realize he was the best of a bad lot on their side. Obama has disappointed me at times, but thank God he's President, not Mittens or McCain.

    June 7, 2013 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  11. Lauren

    Notice he said he wishes hurricane hadn't happened; not because of loss of life and property but because it allowed Obama to look presidential! Oh mittens it's all about you poor darling... now run along and help Annie fold the laundry.

    June 7, 2013 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  12. Tony

    Can these people just go away, and cnn i need new news not old ones this guy is a looser dispite all the money he has.

    June 7, 2013 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  13. Xavier

    I still find it humorous to hear Romney and republicans say the election was close... maybe in a parallel world. But here in when real world Romney and republicans got smacked!

    June 7, 2013 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  14. Skaytn

    you knew by 8:00? why did you simply dismiss every poll saying you'd lose up till 8:00? thank goodness someone that out of touch didn't win. What does this say about Mitt's ability to evaluate a situation? For those who, like Ditto Heads wish Romney had won, how could you think he could lead this country when he couldn't even consider the truth the polls were telling him? Yah, Romney was a good idea. Not.

    June 7, 2013 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  15. IvotedforObama

    Funny how CONservative Christians had no problem supporting him when his religion countered what theirs states.

    June 7, 2013 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  16. jillib

    Why is this three-time loser treated like he's some kind of political oracle? He ran a horrible campaign – but we're supposed to believe that he can prognosticate on upcoming candidates and elections? Seriously?

    BTW, Mr. Romney's claims that he couldn't "afford" to compete with the Obama campaign...""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." Complete bull, Romney actually OUTSPENT Obama. One thing is true, Romney is still factually challenged.

    Why is anyone giving Mr Romney, perhaps the worst republican presidential nominee in recent history, and credibility on these topics? Only fools...and republicans.

    June 7, 2013 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  17. liberal disease

    you should have promised handouts instead of jobs, you would have won by 7 points. Santa Claus never loses.

    June 7, 2013 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  18. Skaytn

    Truth Today: Plenty of white people voted for Obama. Obama won because he reflected the opinion of a majority of Americans. Not sure what your point is, whatever you are trying to say, but I believe Obama won on his merit. If he had none, he would have lost.

    June 7, 2013 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  19. mzakathy

    Dear Joe, I am a Romney hater, but not because he is a Republican, but because he is an idiot! I love the way you stated that Barak won, but we can be on our Verizon phones (yeah, that program has been going on for 7 years! Barak has been in office only 5 years), paying taxes (but according to Mitt, us 47% don't pay taxes, but he does! by the way, the leader of the IRS was appointed by Bush and those involved were two low level auditors who took this upon themselves, but hey lets blame the President) and halting drone strikes (hey lets send live bodies that can be shot down). Get a grip, you just hate to admit that the world is a much better place without Romney in charge and oh, by the way, I have a degree and it is a Business degree and from a top 20 college!

    June 7, 2013 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  20. JJGMA

    "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."

    You couldn't AFFORD them??? That's a very very lame excuse coming from this guy

    June 7, 2013 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  21. maine liberal

    "It's interesting how the opposition campaign made a big deal of that."

    obama-care
    not born here
    not legal president ....

    "

    June 7, 2013 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  22. ncyankee

    I sure do like all these comments, very well said. I thought I was the only one who thought of this. He lost, get over it Mitt and go on. I like John Smith and Becky White's comment. thanks folks for all the comments this am. good way to wake up with a cup of coffee

    June 7, 2013 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  23. mjones

    He couldn't afford as many groundworkers and paid staff as Obama had? That excuse, Mitt, may be the most ridiculous yet.

    June 7, 2013 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  24. Stephen

    Romney said they didn't get the turnout from minority voters that they needed – Ha! The sad part is that neither he nor any of his GOP cronies have figured out why. You don't bash people throughout your campaign, threatening to take away health care, government pensions and other life support programs – and denigrate them for being bums, criminals and losers at the same time – and expect them to vote for you on election night. What the heck is wrong with you people?

    June 7, 2013 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  25. Kansas Slim

    People like the Romneys hate Obama because of what he represents: a President who is truly a representative of many of the people. Romney does not represent the people. He represents the interest of the 1%. The other 46% who voted for him voted against their own interests because they drink the Republican Kool Aid. Everything the GOP does is political; it is not in the interest of the country. All of these so-called scandals will turn out to be phony issues or tempests in teapots. The GOP cries about the economy; but when it improves, they cry about something else. They want the country to flounder just for political reasons. History will not treat them kindly.

    June 7, 2013 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
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