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. Anonymous

    Romney stated he wants to "unite" the country. Judging by his comments Mitt Romney is a sore loser hellbent on a personal revenge tour. This "tour" of Romney's reminds me of the GOP effort of trying to rebrand itself by spewing the same bs over and over.

    June 6, 2013 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  2. gregory21

    Who cares what romney has to say. He's a has been like sara and michele.

    June 6, 2013 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  3. spenteco

    The IRS has been awfully good to Mittens. He should be sending them love letters, he instead whines about high taxes that he does not pay. He is one big puss.

    June 6, 2013 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  4. JohnB35

    Romney's views are irrelevant. He lost. He'd lose again if he ran today, as he is entirely out of touch with America.

    June 6, 2013 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  5. sf

    @ "TexasBrandon"...since Texans obviously live in a 'bubble' and are ignorant as hell...i wouldn't believe anything you've asked me to 'look at' closely...especially when you're defending republicans or Mitt Romney!

    you have my support if your state ever wants to secede...by all means, please do.

    and i'm a former texan! thank god I got out of there when i was young. (thanks mom & dad :) )

    June 6, 2013 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  6. B

    "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 his excuse? The dude is rich as hell, and that's why he think he lost. This is too funny.

    June 6, 2013 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  7. Michael

    Romney is not the direction the Repubs need.
    He is kind of like a male Sarah Palin.

    June 6, 2013 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  8. John

    ""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." Romney spent $992 Million and the president spent $985 million and Romney tell the sheeple he lost because he did not have the money? Republicans are the personification of everything that has gone bad in politics. The man is either and complete idiot or lies like the rest of the GOP.

    June 6, 2013 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  9. babooph

    Understanable he thought he would win,idiot George W bought his election,why not a future God in magic undies?

    June 6, 2013 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  10. kitcole

    The election was very close. I think our country would be much better off today if Romney had won – he is a financial wizard and knows business. But who knows – he would have had to work with the grungy politicians in Washington. They cannot even get along with each other, let alone pass any bills that actually help us. We got what most wanted when our President was elected, now we have to live with it. However, other elections are coming up – let's see what happens then. I personally do not see any Republicans I would vote for – not even the Governor of NJ !

    June 6, 2013 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  11. John

    Romney outspent Obama and then blamed the loss on being outspent.

    You have to WANT to fall for their lies to support today's rightwing.

    June 6, 2013 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  12. anahadwolves

    I see Mittens is still in denial. He was a terrible candidate, had no empathy with us common folk, demeaned those who...unlike him...have to work for a living and basically was as phony as a three-dollar bill.

    Finally, one thing that bothered me so much about Romney was that, not only did he escape to a cushy "pilgrimage" to France to avoid service in Vietnam, but, not a single one of his spoiled, poofter sons has ever worn the uniform either. Too busy shagging for Dad's money, I guess.

    Go away, Mittens. You're yesterday's news wrapped in a fish-wrapper...and, you smell about as appealing.

    June 6, 2013 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  13. B

    I see the red state voters are still cranking out the same delusional sour grapes...you guys need to pull back the rhetoric you've been fed and really look at why Romney lost. He and the GOP are never going to win a thing again as long as they keep behaving this way – all this ultra-conservative, head in the sand backward thinking.

    June 6, 2013 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  14. yogi

    yup, that is what happens if "fair and balanced" provides your reality.

    June 6, 2013 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  15. NC Sister

    Geez CNN give it up. Romney is old news and we know he will never get over this loss. How selfish does one have to be to say the hurricane happened at a bad time. Is there ever a good time for a disaster of such magnitude. This is the last article I will read about Romney. Just like I did when you kept Palin in the limelight I am signing off.

    June 6, 2013 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  16. neutrality77

    I believe Romney's statement about Obama having 10 times more ground troops was more of a poke at Obama having so many people taking government checks, not directly employed. Romney sounds more like a President to me than Obama has ever sounded in the 4.5 years he's held office. Time is telling his presidency is not only a failure, but a complete disaster. But hey, as long as there are rich white conservatives to blame, Obama won't get an ounce of negative commentary. Even when he has scandals up to his eyeballs. Unreal... Just disgustingly unreal.

    Thankfully, I'm smart enough to not let the government, or large government supporters affect me. It just saddens me this group will expect us to bail them out when their failed plans run this country into another crisis. Bleh... I'm still disgusted.

    June 6, 2013 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  17. john

    Romoney lost because he was seen as a member of the 1% and that his efforts in office would only benefit his fellow 1%ers.
    He wanted to take from everybody else. Besides, he is an animated "stuffed shirt."
    The IRS should be investigating conservative groups, it is one of their responsibilities.
    Hillary is unbeatable and she will be president if she so desires. To hold her responsible for North Korea's actions is silly, NK has been carrying on similarly for decades. The Middle East is, and will likely always be a disaster.

    June 6, 2013 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  18. sly

    Ah yes, Mitt Romney.

    We could have our American boys dying in Syria, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Mitt would improve the economy by greatly increasing coffin sales.

    June 6, 2013 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  19. dsangiovanni

    Could you give us a glimpse of your Income returns? Just to know how to evade to pay taxes...Oh.. what do you think about the 47% ?

    June 6, 2013 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  20. jkane sfl the gop national disgrace party will be swept out like the trash they are in2014 ?

    Romney is one of the biggest tax cheats in the country , look up son of boss???

    June 6, 2013 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  21. Jeb

    Romney has taken both sides of every conceivable issue.

    Will the real Romney please step forward?

    June 6, 2013 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  22. BEMHEB

    Romney is sorry that the storm happened when it did "because it allowed obama to look presidential". How about being sorry BECAUSE PEOPLE DIED

    June 6, 2013 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  23. WinTex

    All of the post that I've read thus far are from the looser side. You talk about Romney being out of touch with Main Stream America, well I'm glad you're in the mainstream because you don't have the clue. I've got money hidden away. Don't you just wish you had some too. Play the games the way the big boys play. You're on the outside looking in. We as a Country Lost big time when Obama won a second term, you don't see it and you don't know it. Obummer can't play Robin Hood on the scale that is being played and have it last. We are a bigger house of cards than Greece and some of the EU. When we fall it's all about Obama. We will fall hard. Waaaaaaaa Mister President what are you going to do for us, loosers, that supported you, there is no more money. Liberals spend until all your money is gone. Oh and by the way they 'the Liberal Leadership' have their Bank Accounts off shore too. What fools.

    June 6, 2013 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  24. Anonymous

    What does he mean he couldn't afford the ground workers? He man much more money that Obama? Why didn't he just pull out his personal checkbook like Hillary did????

    Because he's a liar. He didn't have the support of the votes. No amount of workers on foot would have won him the election. Nobody but some republicans wanted him in office. Therefore, he lost! Period!

    June 6, 2013 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  25. TheTraveler

    Does anyone really care about this? The dude and his family are history ... Will probably end up as a question in a home edition of some trivia game ...

    June 6, 2013 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
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