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. Ricky Ricardo

    He is rich and you are not, lol.

    June 6, 2013 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  2. kent

    200 expert and enthusiasts including major republican donors and republican possibles for president meeting to discuss the current problems and solutions. well boy that sounds like a great representation of the united states of america. i bet that will be money and time well spent. wonder if any of their discussions will involve things that will be best for themselves? just a hunch of mine.

    June 6, 2013 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  3. Steve S

    Until the GOP figures out what century they are living in.
    It's gonna be a hard life, living on the lunatic fringe.

    June 6, 2013 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  4. Dee

    He seems to blame everyone and everything but himself for his loss. Perhaps he should take a good, hard look in the mirror.Plain and simple – he was not who America wanted.

    June 6, 2013 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  5. Becky White

    If he wants to unite the country, how is his whining and revenge helping? No class.

    June 6, 2013 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  6. Ron

    Romney is so funny, he's not running for President but he still sticks his foot in his mouth every time he opens it, He comments that the reason he lost is the President had a bigger staff then he did, Because he couldn't afford as many, LOLOLOLOHAHAHAHA, bring back some cash from the camenns!

    June 6, 2013 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  7. Delete Lewis

    Why is this a story? He lost because of his own and party's mistakes. I hope this is not the start of some "poor Mitt" none sense.

    June 6, 2013 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  8. john smith

    why would anyone put their family dog in a cage on top of their family car and drive to Canada from Mass for a family vacation? Mitt the twit did....ruff ruff

    June 6, 2013 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  9. soul68

    Arrogance. Pure arrogance. Not to mention his election team living under some strange delusion they were going to win. They were probably reading their own propaganda about how many people turned out to their rallies.

    Key county in Ohio, they claimed the turnout at his last minute rally was twice what it actually ended up being. They were buying into their own BS.

    So glad this guy lost.

    June 6, 2013 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  10. Jeb

    Here's what went wrong:

    The Republican base has moved so far to the right, no one can win the nomination without going off the deep end of crazy to win them over.

    June 6, 2013 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  11. Puddin

    King Mitt and Queen Ann should stay away from microphones. Everytime they get near one they offer up these excuses for why they didn't win. It's almost laughable. Sarah Palin has finally quietened down (or hasn't anyone tried to buy her mouth lately), so the Romneys should do the same and just remember the 47% they "forgot about" mentioning in front of the mic as well as their bags of money stashed in the Cayman Islands to avoid paying taxes. I like my president to support the USA above all. If everyone did this, we would have no country. Lordy, they are so arrogant and ignorant!

    June 6, 2013 11:09 pm at 11:09 pm |
  12. Dick46

    Mitt should have had Nate Silver rather than Karl Rove doing his polling. Mitt spent time just before the election in Pennsylvania, why?

    June 6, 2013 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  13. geeksrus

    Who cares? It's ancient history now.

    June 6, 2013 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  14. atheist

    i'm mostly scared by super religious candidates... i won't vote on someone openly proclaiming a religion. that being said, i also won't ever vote for a mormon

    June 6, 2013 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
  15. k

    I was very disappointed by Ann Romney. She sounded like a sore loser. I was surprised by her comments, especially the disrespect that she showed to the office she very much hoped her husband would occupy. I had to change the channel. Reading the above seems like her husband is also a sore loser. I wonder if either of them commented on Bush's win, saying it was close. And boy everyone is so afraid of Hillary...

    June 6, 2013 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
  16. AgrippaMT

    There are three Republicans that really deserved to lose the election for President in the past century. The first was Herbert Hoover, the second was GWBush and the third is Mitt Romney. America is a better place now that they are all gone.

    June 6, 2013 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  17. xmxm

    Romney does not even know why he lost. But that is expected. He alienated moderates during primaries and he alienated conservative right in the main elections. Did his best to alienate a lot of other people.

    June 6, 2013 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  18. allenwoll

    Ro-Money : Please GET LOST ! ! !

    June 6, 2013 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  19. Dave

    They knew by 8 pm? Seriously? The rest of the country knew who was going to win days, even weeks, before the election. If they thought they could win at 7 am, much less, 7 pm, then they should cancel the paychecks of their pollsters, because they were only pandering to the candidate.

    June 6, 2013 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  20. mitt is a crybaby

    My god is this guy ever bitter. I can understand why Obama despises him.

    President Obama's economic policies are working. If Mittens were elected, that useless pile of crap would probably have cut spending so sharply that the recovery would be endangered.

    June 6, 2013 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  21. Xman

    Romney and his wife are slime, and the American people knew it. At least those intelligent enough were.

    I am one of the 47% you loser. And you will never go anywhere. Might as well retire and play with your millions you out of touch bag of slime.

    June 6, 2013 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  22. jrw1jrw2

    Bla bla bla. Who cares/ This guy needs to go back to his new McMansion in CA and play "elevator guy" for the rest of his life.

    June 6, 2013 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  23. Nate

    If Faux wasn't his sole source of news Romney would have known it was over at least a week before.

    June 6, 2013 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  24. Elise

    What a tool. He wishes the storm Sandy hadn't happened because "it gave the president a chance to be presidential." Not because, you know, it killed 100 people, or caused millions of dollars of damage, or anything. This kind of thing was exactly his problem, and one reason why the Obama campaign was so successful at portraying him as an out-of-touch robot devoid of human personality or emotion. Even the writer of this article felt the need to kindly gloss the comment, it was so crass, offering us, "looking at the storm through a political lens" as a way to lessen the thoughtlessness of that comment. If he's really that disconnected, I'm extremely glad he isn't running the country today.

    June 6, 2013 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  25. Dionysus86

    Thank you, CNN, for this timely and relevant exposé

    June 6, 2013 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
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