June 6th, 2013
04:32 PM ET
11 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. karl

    He wishes the hurricane didn't happen when it did? Bad timing for him? How about not at all. All politicians are egotistical maniacs but he may be worse than most.

    June 6, 2013 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  2. neil

    For the Romneys to be so sure of victory on election night reaffirms my opinion that he is so tone deaf to reality that he would have made a disasterous President.

    June 6, 2013 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  3. Becky

    Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are about the 2 worst politicians to run. Stupid is as stupid does. Don't insult my intelligence- 2 pigs!

    June 6, 2013 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  4. Becky

    They could never ever compare themselves to OBAMA-never!!!
    Go OBAMA and Democrats–for ALL people.

    June 6, 2013 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  5. Citizens, Unite!

    A billionaire complaining that he doesn't have enough money to pay campaign workers... wow.

    June 6, 2013 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  6. Russell

    Wow. So to summarize, Mittens was aroogant and just knew America would vote him into office, realized he was not going to win, blamed lack of $ for the loss, then to benefit the American taxpayer, goes ahead and tells the Secret Service that they can take off a week early. What a great American.

    June 6, 2013 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  7. Suzy

    Why are we still listening to these two spoiled brats complain about not winning the whole world? In interview after interview she complains about how she was SURE they had won and he complains about how he just didn't get enough "minority votes." Maybe, just maybe, Obama won because enough voters liked him better and thought he'd be a better leader.

    June 6, 2013 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  8. Dave

    In July America already knew. Thanks for playing catch up Romneys.

    June 6, 2013 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  9. droffilc

    They knew by 8pm they had lost. How about a year before he entered the race. HELLOOOOOOOOOOOO

    June 6, 2013 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  10. joe

    They went into the day thinking they'd win? How clueless are these people? Did they not see any of the polls? One pollster accurately predicted the outcome of every state. This is typical of how isolated from reality Romney has always been.

    June 6, 2013 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  11. Doug

    Romney should keep his thoughts to himself.

    June 6, 2013 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  12. Steve

    Mitt, it wasn't close. Ti was a shoe-in.

    Not 51% to 47% but 332 to 206.

    June 6, 2013 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  13. Suzy

    "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." The thing about Romney is that he actually speaks his mind. That wasn't a gaff, he really wishes the hurricane would have happened on another occasion, killing over 100 people, so our president wouldn't be able to be presidential and show sympathy to folks..

    June 6, 2013 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  14. Adrian

    Seeing some of these comments makes me very concerned about our jury system

    June 6, 2013 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  15. snorky

    And it will be HILLARY for 2016. The guy is already trying to sway votes and destroy her character. It won't work. People are smarter and money can't buy votes.

    June 6, 2013 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  16. Godot_is_coming

    Sounds like Bishop Willard still has his magic knickers in knot.

    June 6, 2013 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  17. -Dave

    Romney was an excellent candidate, and has been a class act since the election. His views are still relevant, though he has been modest and not sought the limelight. I hope that his good example will encourage other capable leaders from the business world to run for office. Our country needs more candidates who, like Romney, have records of accomplishment and leadership in diverse fields.

    June 6, 2013 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  18. rude

    The "You didn't build that" attack ads did not work because they were meant for haters of Obama. Everyone else heard praise of the infrastructure that allows biz to thrive.
    Had romney not pandered to the Tea Party, things could have been different.

    June 6, 2013 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  19. Tony Antin

    Wow! I didn't know that one reason Obama won was that the Dems had much, much more money. What an absurd claim. And "getting back to normal" for Ann had to do with laundry and shopping for groceries. Sure, I can see her at the washer/dryer and in the aisles...huh? Mitt continues to amaze with his views of reality.

    June 6, 2013 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  20. here and back again

    That is priceless...by 8PM he knew he was in trouble. I knew that the day he won the nomination. What I find funny is that some right-wingers still don't understand how they lost.

    June 6, 2013 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  21. LouAZ

    What I said is not what I believe. – Mitt Romney FOX News interview 3-3-13.
    And in this interview . . . he still does not know what he believes. No Queen Anne, he does not get to be POTUS because it is "your turn".

    June 6, 2013 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  22. Mona

    My goodness, doesn't this guy ever go away? Geetz Louise! Who cares what his opinions are on who runs for the
    repubs next time! And once again he lied, he said Pres.Obama had more money in his campaign that he did...WHAT?
    He was correct in stating Pres.Obama's campaign was better organized than his....and, he didn't belittle any group of
    folks whether they be African American, Latino, Gay & Lesbian, etc. etc. Pres. Obama clearly is for the American people. Romney is only for Romney...who pays no taxes to speak of & makes erroneous comments.....I'm tired of him!

    June 6, 2013 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  23. Jocho Johnson

    LOL By August 8th I knew you would lose

    June 6, 2013 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  24. Black Dynamite

    Ann knew at 8 PM. People with a brain knew in April......
    BD

    June 6, 2013 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  25. strangerq

    . Judging by his comments Mitt Romney is a sore loser hellbent on a personal revenge tour.

    ^ Mr. 47% wants to unite the country. How? He has made it very clear he does not respect the American people.

    June 6, 2013 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
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