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. sniff

    sniff sniff.

    Go back to your mansion and just go away. Put your wife back in her corner too. You two have thrown little fits off camera. We are done with your whining. Please just go away.

    June 7, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  2. jazzinwine

    So when DID he wish the hurricane would have happened?!?!?!?

    Stop talking!!!

    June 7, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  3. Johann Dough

    "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,"

    Mitt, you are a wordsmith's wordsmith.

    June 7, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  4. Richard

    He couldn't afford it. He has put something like 100 million dollars in trust funds for his kids but not one cent for his American vision. I'm glad he was too cheap too spend that money!

    June 7, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  5. Hamburger Jones

    "Seriously, politics are a joke. Obama stages cover-ups" and then he goes on to take everything way too seriously and fails all over himself. I love listening to small children who think presidents are kings tell me how they think complicated issues can be handled easily. Make a wish and the fairies will solve your crisis!!

    June 7, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  6. adam

    So, he was upset about the hurricane, because he perceived that it benefited Obama personally, not due to the damage, loss, of life, etc. A real humanitarian.

    June 7, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  7. Samuel Wyndham

    I thank GOD every day for his loss.

    June 7, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  8. My10Cents

    Mitt is still Mitt. His comments about super storm Sandy and Hillary Clinton reveal a distinct amount of bitterness. His comments blaming the GOP's lack of "ground workers" on finances just shows are deeply disconnected he still is from the truth about the vast campaign dollars advantage the GOP really held and that money doesn't buy personal commitment or integrity. He will never understand that many, many of the democrat ground workers were volunteers working to mitigate GOP efforts to suppress minority voting rights.

    June 7, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  9. Hamburger Jones

    Once again, thank you America for kicking this bum to the curb. He was one of the most disturbing creatures to creep into politics in a long time, and I'm glad he's gone. He IS gone, right? This ain't gonna be like those horror movies where you think he's dead and then suddenly he's in the back seat of your car, is it? I hate those.

    June 7, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  10. Angela

    Ann knows she doesn't do the laundry.

    June 7, 2013 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  11. John Cram

    "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

    These are folks who own MILLION dollar horses for crying out loud. Can't afford them, what a joke.

    June 7, 2013 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  12. PaganScorp

    Two words...Magic Underpants

    June 7, 2013 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  13. Rudy NYC

    "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 is total denial of his own failures and shortcomings. Remember that Jeep ad that the Romney campaign had put out that was a complete and total lie. It was released 10 days before Sandy hit New Jersey. Polling showed that Romney began falling in the polls BEFORE Sandy struck the east coast, not after as Romney would have you believe.

    June 7, 2013 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  14. bluedogboy

    They knew by 8pm?

    I knew by September 1st.

    No ground game + no smart people = LOSS

    June 7, 2013 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  15. Downfall of America...Liberals!

    Richard! its so wild to me how you hate peoples personal wealth and think you should have the ability to control how the Romney's spend their money! You obviously haven't worked for anything in your life and earned and anything to understand the sense of pride you get from hard work and sacrifice!

    June 7, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  16. Downfall of America...Liberals!

    The day the Romney's lost was a sad day for America!!! We have lost countless freedoms since the Obama's have been in office. I find it difficult differentiating between the Obama's and the Bush's!

    June 7, 2013 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  17. Sam's Uncle

    Boy, I'm so glad Mitt Romney didn't win! I mean, things are better than ever with President Obama. First, he's just so transparent just like he promised! I mean there was the whole IRS scandal and now there's thing about tapping reporters' phones and forcing Verizon to give up their metadata. But hey, the President said just the other day that "nobody is listening to your phone conversations!" Second, he has just improved the economic lives of everyday Americans so much. Yeah, America's employment rate is still at a 30 year low and hasn't changed in three years and inflation seems to grow faster than current salaries, but hey, at least it got easier to get health care. Yeah, it will cost the country a lot more (even though we are so far in debt that if the nation were a person it would have declared bankruptcy years ago), but hey its worth it. But then, we did increase the amount of red tape doctor's and hospital's now have to go through, meaning they actually have less time to spend with patients (doesn't that actually defeat the purpose of greater access to health care??), but again who really needs to see a doctor? At least the president is all for treating women fairly. He is such a great supporter of equal pay for women. I know he pays his male employees approximately $54k while only paying his female employees $45k for the same type of job, but I'm sure there is a great explanation. Yes, I'm so glad we didn't elect Mitt Romney. Can you imagine how much worse things would be right now?

    June 7, 2013 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  18. OwMySkull

    Romney did not become president. Proof that there is a God.

    June 7, 2013 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  19. BobZemko

    If Romney had been elected, we'd be at war with Sweden by now.

    June 7, 2013 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  20. Really?

    So, Obama won because he had more money? And Romney won the Republican nomination because of what? His ideals?

    June 7, 2013 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  21. GOP Hate America

    Before the primaries the rest of us know.

    June 7, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  22. kaneda

    "He couldn't afford it. He has put something like 100 million dollars in trust funds for his kids but not one cent for his American vision. I'm glad he was too cheap too spend that money!"

    Talking like the liberals... your money is my money!

    June 7, 2013 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  23. just observing

    Anyone else think its ironic that he only got 47% of the vote after his 47% comment during the campaign?

    Sandy hits and people lose their homes and the first thing he talks about is how it affected him? How about "millions of people were affected, people lost homes, jobs and everything they worked for, the impact on the campaign is the last thing we should be talking about". The man still does not get it. There is a world beyond the country club walls Mr. Romney. By the way, I am a Republican.

    June 7, 2013 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  24. rick

    The rest of us knew by September... only the blind didn't realize what a terrible candidate you were.

    June 7, 2013 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  25. Loathstheright

    Most of us knew the very day his campaign started.

    June 7, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
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