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. GailScottt

    Romney is transparent and disingenuous. He blames Christie for his loss and he slights Christie by saying "he has great potential for leadership." Har! Christie has more than great potential and Romney knows it. Romney plans to run in 2016 and he doesn't want Christie to run against him. My money says Christie is going to run for the nomination and will win. In turn, Christie is going to give the Democratic nominee (Clinton?) a run for their money.

    June 6, 2013 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  2. snowdogg

    "because he could afford them and we couldn't," he said. "

    Oh, really? That $600+ mil your buddy Rove raised didn't do the trick. Maybe, just maybe Mitt – the people didn't like you and what you have stood for... the advancement of the 1%.

    June 6, 2013 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  3. headlessthompsongunner

    "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"

    What a load of BS. Dude, you lost because you were videotaped saying that you did not intend to represent the needs of 48% of all Americans. Remember?

    June 6, 2013 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  4. Jason

    Robmey has good experiance stealing....only idgits would believe him to be good for America

    June 6, 2013 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  5. duke

    Again CNN is showing poor journalism. Give us some thing that is meaningful rather than opportunity to some one rewrite just for the sake ofi

    June 6, 2013 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  6. Doc1

    Who cares what this guy has to say. He's the most two faced flipper flopper to ever run for President.

    June 6, 2013 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  7. zufree2b

    By 8pm you knew! We knew from day one!!!

    June 6, 2013 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  8. David G

    Romney LOST. It is OVER. He LOST!! Face it he had a BAD Manager. Did he not know the Dems had a force that was prepared.
    Ann Coulter called it. Why is the GOP surprised?.

    Romney is equal to Sara P, USELESS

    June 6, 2013 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  9. Frank

    Nobody cares about these cult-member freaks. One has to wonder whether he'd have kept stomping on the 1st and 4th amendments like Obama's been doing though.

    June 6, 2013 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  10. bowwow

    Dear Ann: We all knew on the day your not too bright hubby announced that he could care less about 47% of Americans. Why did it take you so long.

    June 6, 2013 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  11. Jim Cornelius

    Yeah, too bad about that hurricane. Bad timing for Mitt. Inconvenient for several million other people, too. I imagine the residents of New Jersey and New York would have rather Sandy hit some other time — or not at all.

    June 6, 2013 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  12. Steve

    "Life goes on. It's just amazing. I mean you still – there's still laundry, you still have to get the groceries," – Yea right, she does the laundry and shopping. It is just hard to decide which of the houses to do it at.

    June 6, 2013 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  13. Ella

    "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. –> Um, actually, there were a lot of unpaid volunteers who believed in Obama. Probably 47% percent more unpaid and committed volunteers than Romney.

    June 6, 2013 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  14. tony

    Running for Emperor in 2012 was premature

    June 6, 2013 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  15. katahdin

    In the crucial battleground state of Ohio, President Obama and Mitt Romney spent about the same amount of money on their "ground game" or get-out-the-vote effort. However, President Obama had about twice the number of people on the ground as Romney. The reason? Because Romney wasted huge amounts of money paying his top people in Ohio gigantic salaries, corporate-executive style. President Obama paid decent salaries, but saved most of his get-out-the-vote money for actually getting out the vote, as opposed to providing golden parachutes for his cronies.
    Government is not a business, and neither is campaigning.

    June 6, 2013 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  16. Hap

    "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's problem is summed up in this statement. He doesn't wish the hurricane never happened because it was so damaging to so many people. No, poor Mitt was the real victim of Sandy, he just wishes it happened later so it didn't hurt him. It's all about him and that massive ego of his. He didn't win because he's him.

    June 6, 2013 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  17. Webeton

    Mitt Romney knows Obama is a dirty politician that used the IRS and other goverment department at his disposition to win the 2012 election. The truth will eventually surface!
    Obama and his whole cabinet are nothing more than a bunch of dirty crooked politician, and the sad shame is that the majority of Americans are blind and cannot see this.

    June 6, 2013 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  18. mike0404

    Where's the tax returns Mitt?

    June 6, 2013 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  19. Sotzume

    The Romneys remain in their little wealthy bubble of a life which has no relationship to reality. This is how they would have run the country. Thank heavens they will never run this country. They blame everyone but themselves. What a pair of unlikeable people they are.

    June 6, 2013 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  20. Oh

    In case the public has forgotten, Mitt wants to explain once again why we have no use for the Republican opposition/divisive party in this country. Maybe they should be sent back to the the 13th century when their style was more in vogue.

    June 6, 2013 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  21. Mark

    Man I was going to post some negative stuff about the man too, but it appears most of the posts on here have me covered. Good riddance Mitt and come on man pay your fair share like all us other workin' stiffs out here.

    June 6, 2013 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  22. jimbo

    Romney is still pouting about losing and is typical of a loser. He blames everything but himself – born loser!

    June 6, 2013 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  23. E!

    "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-

    People died and there was massive devastation in the area. Should the hurricane have been re-scheduled to suit you and your campaign? Zero sympathy from this guy. Jeez.

    June 6, 2013 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  24. Phillco

    He has his own fault to blame for losing like making that stupid 47% comment. He was and is so out of touch.

    June 6, 2013 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  25. MrH

    ""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. "

    So the Romney family has less money than the Obama's? Funny since Obama's 2011 income was $789,674 and Romney's was $13,696,951. He shouldn't be spending so much on the ladies if he couldn't outspend Obama.

    June 6, 2013 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
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