June 6th, 2013
04:32 PM ET
2 years 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. Julie

    The ultimate plutocrat from a whacked out religion is still in denial. Even with his legion of Obama haters and the rest of the mentally challenged religious right he couldn't eek out a win. Even now he talks about his mini-me Paul Ryan like he's someone special. So pathetic!

    June 7, 2013 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  2. yesorno

    Romney = 3-times loser. Put his picture in the dictionary.

    June 7, 2013 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  3. Who me?

    Paul Ryan was one of the great vice-presidential nominees in history-OOO kay.

    June 7, 2013 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  4. Kruunch

    This is why I don't like Romney ... he said he was outsized 10:1.

    Total Campaign Costs:

    Obama: 985.7m spent
    Romney: 992m spent

    If you're going to lie, at least do a better job of it.

    June 7, 2013 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  5. John

    I love how liberals always point the blame to someone else, well specifically Bush. My favorite is " Barak has been in office only 5 years)" ...that person is going to need a large facecloth to was all the brown stuff off his face before he continues drinking the Democrat's Kool-Aid.

    June 7, 2013 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  6. Cristiabella

    Yeah, Mitt–never mind all those people whose lives were devasted by Sandy, let's just talk about how pollitically inconvenient it was for you...

    June 7, 2013 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  7. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    On election eve, Romney said to Ann, honey come this time tomorrow you'll be sleeping with the President of the United States of America. Well, on election night Ann said to her husband, honey is Barack coming over or do I have to go over to the White House? Oops!

    June 7, 2013 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  8. cavtek

    Is there anything worse than a whiney mega-rich loser. How can you win a Presidential Election by alienating blacks, poor whites, Hispanics, retirees, young people, women, gays and what's left of the middle class. It amazes me that he got 47% of the vote. Go away Mitt, and don't come back.

    June 7, 2013 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  9. J. Davis in Knoxville, TN

    Hey, if Romney had really had a person on his staff honestly looking at the pre-election polls, he would have known he was losing long before Election Night–the Republicans always think they will come out on top. Thankfully, that didn't happen. The 47 percent remarks did Romney in early in the campaign plus his selection of that nutjob Paul Ryan as his VP candidate.
    Thank God for President Barack Obama.

    June 7, 2013 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  10. beevee

    Gloria Borger should find something better to do rather than interviewing a sore loser who did not have the courtesy to come out and congratulate Obama right after the election results were known. McCain was much more gracious in accepting election loss. I don't have an iota of respect for Mr. Romney.

    June 7, 2013 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  11. Greta

    So if Hurricane Sandy happened a week later when it was even colder, that would have been better for you campaign? Have trees fall around your house, lose power for two weeks in the cold, and have your floors flooded and see if you even care about a presidential campaign. What a jerk!

    June 7, 2013 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  12. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Bush and the GOPT should be tried for economic treason and crimes against, well, the economy. The so-called job creators, the super rich, the 1%ers got 8 straight years of tax breaks but created ZERO jobs, while pocketing the money in off shore accounts and making profits. Then they and the tea party held the federal govt hostage once again, forcing the Obama administration to give them another 4 years of tax breaks while they continue to lay off workers, slash important domestic programs, stripping the middle class of their pension, collective bargaining rights, promotions and pay raises that they've earned, implemented furlought days without pay and force many to retire against their will. Then they force the middle class to pick up the tab and compensate for lost revenue as result of not taxing businesses and corporations. Let's face it, with all the tax breaks the job creators got for 12 straight years, the unemployment rate shoud be a ZERO. Yea, that's economic treason.

    June 7, 2013 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  13. karenj8838

    "I wish the hurricane didn't happen when it did..." Is he kidding? I live in NJ and we wish wish the hurricane didn't happen. PERIOD Where is the compassion from this regligious man?

    June 7, 2013 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  14. GI Joe

    He looks awful – guess private life not going well since Ann couldn't become the first queen of the U.S.

    June 7, 2013 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  15. Greta

    And you could afford the ground coverage that Obama had? Reports show you raised more money... so what did you do with it?

    June 7, 2013 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  16. Bill Lomee

    "After the election loss,life goes on " said Anne Romney. "There's laundry to do and the groceries" LMAO! "...and Mitt went back to outsourcing jobs ".

    June 7, 2013 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  17. Roscoe

    We really missed the boat. Romney would have been fantastic as President. He understood the economy, he understood governing, he had the intellect and background to make a huge difference. Unfortunately he was too good and that was politically incorrect. Negative campaigning by Obama was able to turn his upper class background into a liability. The 47% comment was all it took. This was similar to the Bush first term when he was way ahead in the polls and the Gore camp and the media leaked the "heavy drinker" label days before the election. That last minute smear campaign deadlocked the election and Gore almost won.

    June 7, 2013 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  18. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    The horse beat the elephant and it sure wasn't Rafalca!

    June 7, 2013 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  19. King

    WTH!!!!! Did he just actually say that he got out gunned and out spent by 10-1?!!!!! romney had WAYYYYYY more money and way mroe people with higher salaries than Obama had! All this article tells me is that what he is really saying is "Hey, I thought we would win for sure because we paid and bought the election, rigged it, and made sure that everyone who didn't have money would find it much harder to vote." Even if you are not an Obama fan, you should be THANKFUL that this moron didn't win.

    June 7, 2013 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  20. Scott

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

    I think she means: "Life goes on. It's just amazing. I mean you still- there's still laundry that you have to make sure your housekeeper does, and you still have to talk to the person who gets your groceries."

    June 7, 2013 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  21. PeterD

    CNN played a major role in defeat of Romney.

    June 7, 2013 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  22. Craig in Pa.

    Still doesn't have a clue....He lost long before election night....anyone with common sense saw he was a loser from the get go....If Republicans wanted to win, Jon Huntsman would have done that...again, that was obvious among the choice of losers they presented back in the primary debates. Huntsman could have swayed a lot of Democratic party votes.... it was pretty obvious that he had the most real experience for the job,but common sense is not as abundant as it once was....and you just can't fix stupid! The Republicans remain clueless and I think it is a terminal condition for the party!

    June 7, 2013 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  23. Rememberwhatbushdid

    Wow...Romney's response to Christie and Obama and the hurricane shows it all. He said he was sorry the hurricane happened just before the election. Not that he was sorry the hurricane happened...that lives were lost and countless others adversely affected. He should have said the hurricane was a national tragedy and that he thought Christie and Obama did the American thing of working closely together to bring relief to the affected as quickly as possible. Instead, he viewed it as how it affected his political career. These Republicans are piece of work. Worrying first about the wealthy and power.

    June 7, 2013 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  24. Amy

    People vote the persona, Romney wasn't presidential, he was a CEO and Americans want somebody as them for a president so forget about sandy, Bengazi, the IRS and all that stupidity (a storm deciding a presidential election, really? Wow sometimes the press has a very poor concept of the American people, do you think Americans are so stupid that they will vote depending of the presidential reaction to a storm that happened in NY, unbelievable!.) Is all about the persona and at the end Obama has the appeal to be president.

    June 7, 2013 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  25. Jeffrie Berline

    I ain't even mad...just a little sad

    June 7, 2013 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
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