June 6th, 2013
04:32 PM ET
10 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.

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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. Demigod Vadik, CA

    "Paul Ryan a great vice Presidential candidate in the historY..."


    June 7, 2013 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  2. LaVerne

    He (Romney) was the much better choice of the two, Obama is proving that out now.....I don't mind that Romney is rich, some of you on here seem to be jealous of that fact. THAT is the American dream, working hard, passing on what you have earned to your children and grand-children - the dream that Obama is trying to take away from us. Socialism never worked in the early days here in our country when it was tried, it never worked in other countries and it won't work here again....

    June 7, 2013 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  3. Rudy NYC

    "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 [Mitt Romney] said.
    There he goes again, exposing himself as out of touch with regular people. It it possible that he really doesn't understand what volunteering is? The number of paid campaign workers was a lot closer than Romney realizes. The vast majority of what he calls "ground workers" were volunteers.

    June 7, 2013 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  4. cali girl

    Turn out the lights.......
    the party is over......

    June 7, 2013 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  5. Monomachos

    What a bunch of ignorant comments! Anyone who did just a smidgen of research would know that yes, the Romneys do their own laundry and many other things. (Go to youtube and watch the video made by the couple that bought Romney's house in Park City). You believed the hype and the misrepresentations or you were jealous of his success and wealth but failed to consider who actually had the skillset to help the country through its problems. For example, the unemployment rate stands at 7.6% today – identical to what it was in January 2009. Romney could have done better

    June 7, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  6. Jackson Bjorn

    "So sure he would win, Romney said he did not plan a losing speech. 'I'd written a very good winning speech.'"

    Now imagine, if you can, that arrogant and delusional man as *president.* Obama has his problems but when you look at the alternatives, man.

    June 7, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  7. Joseph Smith the VIII

    So Romney is described as "delusional".

    I'm sure I'll get slammed for this because it's not PC. But, he is a classic Mormon. I lived in Utah for 5 years and the expression that we used to describe the vast majority of them was "nice house, nobody home". Missing something. Arrogant, yes. Lack of a soul. Yes. Gullible. Yes. Nice. Yes. Empty. Empty. Need I say more?

    June 7, 2013 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  8. Kris

    I agree that alot of people are jealous of rich, successful people. Romney made his money and earned it. I work 50 plus hours a week and you better believe I pay taxes and earn every cent I make. Its called Free Enterprise folks, this is what this country is all about. I absolutely truly would rather have a Mormon in the White House than a Socialist with Muslim ties, i.e. Obama. I am sure appreciating our past Republican Presidents now that we have this mess in DC. I am tired of the scandals already; I cannot wait for 2016. Lets hope a Republican gets elected and not that bottom feeder Hilary Clinton. I have learned alot the past 4 1/2 years that I would much rather have freedom and opportunities over this new Progressive way of thinking. I can't believe Obama supporters don't realize that what is happening to this country is dangerous and not good for our children and grandchildren.

    June 7, 2013 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  9. Lsteel

    Romney's family does their own laundry because they are cheap. Another example is their Thanksgiving dinner from a cheap chain restaurant, when they could afford any restaurant or–heavens!–have their own cook. To hear a man of Mitt's resources complain of not having enough money for staff is mind-boggling.

    As for "jealousy", this is a word that comes up any time a commenter can't figure out why another commenter doesn't like a public person. But most people are not jealous of Romney or Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann–certainly not of their "influence" or "power". Some of us just don't like them.

    June 7, 2013 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  10. soabsurd

    Months after the election we find out why Obama really won. Hype and blame, never giving a straight answer and using the government to target your opposition IRS, EPA, DOJ. Based on all the comments here its sounds like most are still disillusioned. Thanks for voting in Obama who will likely go down in history as the worst president ever.

    June 7, 2013 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  11. Linda

    The fact that Romney has whittled Hurricane Sandy down to a "little thing" & that he regrets it gave President Obama a chance to be Presidential is a truly sad commentary on Romney's lack of compassion and identification with the public. People died and property was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, Romney. It was not something that happened just to inconvenience his Presidential campaign. He is terribly self-centered. And I just bet his wife went back to doing laundry and buying groceries. Yea, right.

    June 7, 2013 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  12. donna

    "We didn't get the turnout from minorities and poor that we had expected." Romney said.

    Gee, ya think?

    June 7, 2013 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  13. Ed G.

    "Romney said the results were so close–51% to 47%"

    Only 5 presidents have won by over 51%. Not close at all.

    June 7, 2013 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  14. Ed G.

    Correction: Only 5 presidents have won twice by over 51%

    June 7, 2013 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  15. Agent Michael Scarn

    The Romney's must have a gigantic compound located along the banks of that river in Egypt. It's the only explanation for the permanent use of denial in how they think.

    June 7, 2013 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  16. harvey conn

    I for one hope he dupes the republican party into selecting him as their candidate in 2016 so he can lose again.

    June 7, 2013 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  17. Mary Ann

    Who cares what Romney has to say about anything.He needs to stop crying about losing the election put on his big boy's pants and go home and count his money.

    June 7, 2013 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  18. Les

    This country wasn't worthy of Mitt Romney – we got what we deserved. We are becoming a 2nd class nation. We had the chance to bring in a great man that had the ability to improve things but we chose otherwise – sad.

    June 8, 2013 12:44 am at 12:44 am |
  19. Richard

    You Republican refuse to admit Romney lost an the economy is recovering with out your help. Mitt is nothing but a snake. Go away......Any person who runs for office knows that the people want to see his tax returns. What didn't you want people to see Mitt?

    June 8, 2013 05:20 am at 5:20 am |
  20. fiscal2020

    Romney lost because whites didn't come out to vote for him and stayed home.

    He didn't lose because of hordes of minorities, latinos, liberals, moochers or whatever else he wants to blame.

    He didn't run a good campaign and he couldn't convince his own people to come out and topple Obama. His own fault.

    June 8, 2013 07:47 am at 7:47 am |
  21. Mainer

    The party of NO, has got to Go! The old, white, angry, releigious hypocrite, rich guys are done. They have done more harm to this once fine nation as well as to christianity than any of our enemies could ever have.

    June 8, 2013 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  22. Jules

    It amazes me that he went into election day so certain he would win that he didn't have a speech ready in case he lost. Really amazing and egotistical.

    June 8, 2013 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
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