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. Jim

    Loser then, loser now!

    June 6, 2013 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  2. nuntukamen

    Hilarious, and he's still as far out of touch with mainstream, non-rich America as he ever was. He and 200 rich goofballs are going to massage each other's egos and feelings of importance, not solve our nation's problems, at his conference. They are the problems.

    June 6, 2013 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  3. Say WHAT???

    "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.

    IS HE SERIOUS??? He's got money squirrelled away in offshore accounts that are growing and that he never pays taxes on, and he says he can't afford paid staff?

    Everyone who believes him, stand on your head.

    June 6, 2013 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  4. Jdavis

    Romney is either a liar or just clueless. His campaign had just as much money as the Obama campaign...however, if you look at the budget breakdown of how money was spent, most of Romney's money went to consultants and advisers whereas the bulk of Obama's money went to the staff....the low staff, the ones who did all the paper work and knocking on doors. The money was about the same but Obama's people spent it a lot more wisely.

    June 6, 2013 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  5. Bill in Florida

    Typical Republican, playing the blame game rather than accepting responsibility. Hilarious that a guy who has put away $100 MILLION for his kids claims that President Obama outspent him 10:1. Romney probably is worth 100 x what Obama is worth!

    June 6, 2013 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  6. Dan Cas

    Why is this idiot even given any time to talk? What he has to say is irrelevant. If America wanted to know what he had to say, they would have elected him President in November.

    He's nothing but an arrogant, rich, whining, out-of-touch idiot that needs to fade away with the rest of the GOP.

    June 6, 2013 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  7. scpearl

    We had the opportunity this past November to elect a brilliant, proven leader. Instead, based on lies put out by the Chicago machine, we elected a man with no executive experience... And it shows. Now we have a neutered lame duck in the White House dealing with numerous scandals: Libya, IRS targeting conservatives, tapping the press, and today even the New York Times Editorial Board states: "The administration has now lost all credibility" regarding the newest scandal, collecting phone data from millions via Verizon.

    June 6, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  8. Sven

    It's funny to me that he didn't write a "loss" speech, despite strong indications from the polls that Obama was going to win.
    But then, that was the 2012 election season in a nutshell: the Republican denial of reality. Denial that unemployment is going down. Denial that women are discriminated against. Denial that Catholics and Jews care about more issues than just abortion and Israel. Whenever the FACTS don't favor Republicans, they can always be counted on to breathlessly insist that it's not true. 'It can't be true. Everyone else must be wrong. Every single one of them must be lying somehow.'

    June 6, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  9. Wake up People!

    Willard again??? When's the wedding Fox-lite??

    June 6, 2013 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  10. Hypatia

    Is he bringing his bindersful of women? Weasel and the fat man!

    June 6, 2013 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  11. fleurdelys

    The day Romney lost, the history of the US changed and the people of this country lost. From that moment it has been a down hill marathon that even Hillary Clinton would not participate.

    June 6, 2013 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  12. Michael

    He should crawl back under his rock of shame and stay there.

    June 6, 2013 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  13. TexasBrandon

    I agree Mike. All of you replublican haters are obvioulsly ignorant. Open your eyes and look at what the "Obama Administration" has done to this country.

    June 6, 2013 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  14. Ivan Bial

    Gov. Chris Christie, is the governor of all the people in New Jersey, not just the GOP.
    The GOP continues to create a us VS them split in government. If it's GOP it's correct, if it's the Dem's there anti-American and wrong.
    The GOP has wasted over 5 years presenting anti-abortion legislation, and budgets they know will not pass the Senate or be signed by our President.
    To this day the GOP cannot stand the fact they lost the white house and a large percentage can't stand the fact the President is not white.

    June 6, 2013 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  15. ~fleurdelys

    The day Romney lost, the history of the US improved...

    June 6, 2013 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  16. Gurgyl

    Why this dude is in the news?? He lost shamelessly. Right.

    June 6, 2013 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  17. jay

    “I wish the hurricane hadn’t have happened when it did"... see, Mitt, it's statements/gaffes like this why your not the POTUS. A serius politician would have said “I wish the hurricane hadn’t have happened at all, it's silly and irresponsible to talk of an effect of a real tragedy on elections".

    June 6, 2013 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  18. Lester

    "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." Boy, this guy still doesn't get it. Obama had lots of VOLUNTEERS on the ground. Money doesn't buy that kind of enthusiasm. And, clearly, spending the most money (by far) didn't help Romney win.

    June 6, 2013 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  19. martigan

    knowing what we know now about Obama people are still blind to think that he has our best interest.
    how lame can we be. we want free money and he gives it. while hard working people pay for your free phone and living. well i hate to say it but i told you so.
    and keep thinking obama will help us is a false hope that lies and cheeting will only ruin in the end.
    KARMA comes back harder to those who lie.

    June 6, 2013 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  20. concernedcitizen

    Mitt, you weren't relevant or credible before the election, you're not now...just give up and PRAY that one of your GOPPERS makes it to the White House 2016, cause it aint gonna be U.

    June 6, 2013 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  21. Reality-based

    "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". Pretty much sums it up, eh?

    June 6, 2013 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  22. reaperfearer

    "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.

    So, nevermind that the storm disrupted thousands of lives. He implies that it should have happened at a different time, presumably after the election. What a self-serving bone head.

    June 6, 2013 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  23. Joe

    Dear Romney Haters, why do you still hate someone who lost the presidency? Your Big Brother Barak won, yay for you. You get to say "I told you so" on your Verizon phone calls that his Justice Department is recording, file even more taxes to the IRS that monitors your political activities and talk about his Nobel Peace Prize after not closing Gitmo, repealing the PATRIOT Act or halting (but rather increasing) drone strikes. Romney has a JD/MD from Harvard. How many of you haters can even have a college degree? PS, useless degrees like Political Science and English Literature don't count.

    June 6, 2013 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  24. albertabound

    America loves a "whiner".

    June 6, 2013 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  25. Soothsayer

    What a jerk! Still wonders about what could have been. Ha! Ha! Romney was lost from beginning of his campaign. was a jerk as governor and totally lost as a candidate.

    June 6, 2013 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
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