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. RINO Bil

    I was having doubts about the wisdom of casting my vote for Obama in '12.

    After reading this ... not any more!

    June 6, 2013 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  2. Dejavu65

    Romney is about 8pm East Coast time and we think you should just go Awaaaaaaaaaaay!!

    June 6, 2013 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  3. Bill

    Typical Mitt. He wishes the hurricane didn't happen when it did because it gave Obama the opportunity to look presidential. How about wishing the hurricane didn't happen AT ALL because it took lives and ruined the homes of thousands of people?!?

    June 6, 2013 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  4. TParker

    This is rich...and typical of the present day Republican. If he only had a scandal; if he only hadn't revealed what he thought about most of the country; if he only had more money; etc etc etc.
    Republicans no longer serve an actual useful purpose in governance. Instead they have become the anti-governance party and appeal to the boneheads who can't think beyond their predispositions.
    We're going to get the house and the senate and the Presidency and disregard you idiots.

    June 6, 2013 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  5. Bib Boogg

    This is a smoke screen. Who cares what the loser thinks. This is just a smoke screen to keep you kids from getting a clear view of what the current occupant is getting away with. With help from a compliant press. When and if you kids mature, you'll ask yourselves: "what was I thinking?" Oh well, whats the sense of being young if you can't be stupid? But by that time, the republic will be in ashes. Very sad indeed.

    June 6, 2013 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  6. dave

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

    What a bunch of Bull! Yeah, they had to pay the maid bill, and whomever gets their groceries.. And WHAT bank account should we use? Anyone who thinks they won before the people have spoken – you know the 47% whose "job it is for me NOT to care about" have voted is an out of touch JERK.

    June 6, 2013 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  7. Bib Boogg

    Thanks again, CNN. Should I be expecting a knock at my door?

    June 6, 2013 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  8. East of Eden

    Romeny couldn't afford to keep pace with Obama? Give me a break!

    June 6, 2013 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  9. User-301

    I didn't read the entire article but correct me if I'm wrong. Did Ann Romney say she knew for sure that her husband was a liar at 10:01pm? What a terrible thing to say.

    June 6, 2013 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  10. East of Eden

    Mitt couldn't keep pace with Barack in regards to spending? Come on now. My apologies for the misspell on Romney earlier.

    June 6, 2013 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  11. Tim

    My God, he still doesn't get it. Very little empathy comes from a man that defines a tragic event like Superstorm Sandy in political terms with out mentioning the suffering of victims. Self-centered man that definitely is out of touch.

    June 6, 2013 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  12. NYVeteran

    Dear Mitt and Ann,

    By 8 minutes into your campaign we all knew too.

    The public

    June 6, 2013 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  13. Gaberax

    Cry us a river, loser.

    June 6, 2013 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  14. HomeBoy

    We would be all better off if Romney had won. Except maybe the hand-out society.

    June 6, 2013 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  15. Pander Bear

    "Talking about what went wrong, Romney said they didn't get the turnout from minority voters that they needed..."

    Proof enough that Mr. Mayonnaise was completely delusional.

    June 6, 2013 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  16. Original Jamma

    Somebody call the waaambulance...

    June 6, 2013 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  17. HomeBoy

    With Obamacare, do we all now need to pay for those obese twinkie stuffing pigs that are now over 50 percent of our population when they start getting sick? Oh joy.

    June 6, 2013 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  18. oracle

    I wish Romney would have won. American would have a brighter future.

    But he'll go on being super-rich and successful, so no worries about him. Americans deserve the government they vote for.

    June 6, 2013 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  19. upwardquest

    Romney was out of touch then and still is now. It is very difficult for him to understand that he lost the election because of himself. President Obama won fairly and it's a good thing he did win. He's doing a superb job given the anti-Obama consciousness in the House and Senate.

    June 6, 2013 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  20. fsdf

    Ryan: Shtruggling?
    Rom: Absly!

    June 6, 2013 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  21. concerned citizen

    I liked Romney but he made too many poor choices in his language, his overconfidence and choice of running mate which all had definate affect on his losing the Presidency. I truly hope that the Republicans can get their heads out of the toilet long enough to think seriously about the future of their party. They have some time right now to do some research and exploration of where the country is going, where they want it to go and how they want to get there. Having ignorant people running for Presidency who are stuck on issues from the Tea Party is not going to do it for them. Stronger representatives in foreign affairs, economy, infastructure of our country and law would be a good place to start. If they continue on the road they have been walking down for the past few elections they will be giving the Presidency away again. I want to see a good run for office from both and all parties.
    y

    June 6, 2013 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  22. Ed T Duck

    "Life goes on. It's just amazing. I mean you still – there's still laundry, you still have to get the groceries," she said." ROFL, like you've not hired someone to do those for the last 20 years...

    June 6, 2013 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  23. Dave

    By 8:00 it looked bad and they were watching Fox.

    June 6, 2013 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  24. Still laughing

    "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. Now that's just plain funny, Romney talking about not being able to afford something, and he wonder what went wrong.

    June 6, 2013 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  25. teeter

    It's to bad that Mitt lost. I think it shows the moral degradation and decline that this countries in right now. He certainly would be doing a better job than obama. I can't believe with all the crap his administration has pulled, all the coverups, all the lies, all of the misleading. He should be in prison along with most of his staff.

    June 6, 2013 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
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