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. angela

    What a lost opportunity – Something feels all wrong about our country right now....... Sorry that a real knowledgeable, intelligent business man did not win this election...these are ominous times...

    June 7, 2013 01:23 am at 1:23 am |
  2. mixnmatch

    "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." Yes, Mitt. We all wish the hurricane could have been timed better so it did not have such a horrible impact on you.

    June 7, 2013 01:26 am at 1:26 am |
  3. Monomachos

    I see all of the misrepresentations and false allegations made against Romney by the Obama campaign worked – (he's rich, he doesn't care; blah blah -too many of you did not bother to find out the truth about him. He is a good person and the skills that made him very successful in business would have served the country well. Instead we get IRS scandals, the DOJ going after reporters and a president who, in the words of Bill Clinton "does not know how to be president." As i type, the NSA is watching. Good choice.

    June 7, 2013 01:33 am at 1:33 am |
  4. Concerned

    I'm still glad Romney didn't win the election. Obama may have some flaws that I don't like, but Romney scared me and many of the others in the middle class. As it stands, there really isn't another GOP candidate I think can win... maybe Christi. I do like him, but up against Hillary I don't think he can win.

    June 7, 2013 01:55 am at 1:55 am |
  5. J

    u guys please stop this i understand ur hate tward the man and i am glad he didnt win either but from the looks of it the one in the house now has u blinded has he kept any of his promises to us not wall st

    June 7, 2013 01:58 am at 1:58 am |
  6. shelby

    Romney still mouthing off that he was the best candidate and something went wrong. Yes something went wrong and it was you.

    June 7, 2013 01:59 am at 1:59 am |
  7. mlblogscbgoldsmith

    I must admit that Mitt's consistent cluelessness is rather endearing. And before you guess me a Democrat let me say that John Kerry and Al Gore have this same vacant cluelessness too. It comes from a combination of a strong sense of self, a strong ego and absolutely no idea how things work in the real world. Mitt might have made a fine President but as a candidate the guy is a suit searching for a man, as clueless as he is vacant. Hilariously so.

    June 7, 2013 02:00 am at 2:00 am |
  8. Randy

    What really strikes me is that he did not know what every objective reporter already knew. That he was behind & he would most likely lose. Really, it is scary how disconnected from reality he, the right wing media entertainment complex and the voters on the far right are.

    June 7, 2013 02:04 am at 2:04 am |
  9. J.V.Hodgson

    I am all for freedom of speech.
    But when an interview is arranged for comment on events and the person interviewed makes false claims like the Amount of money spent and you reort the interview then to me its good journalism to point out the true facts as commentary to the interview notes.
    Certain part of Romneys responses justify four pinnochios!!

    June 7, 2013 02:05 am at 2:05 am |
  10. Dan

    What the heck is up with all this focus on Romney's loss and what he thinks about anything? Seriously... do you remember this type of focus when Kerry lost, or Gore (who had a legitimate reason to dwell on it because it was stolen from him), or even Bush Sr. But for some reason the media thinks we care about Romney. Guess what, we don't.

    June 7, 2013 02:17 am at 2:17 am |
  11. RJ

    Romney's comments are RELEVANT – remember the Republicans had a long primary and once the Candidate was chosen the funds were NOT available to Romney's campaign until a few weeks around the Republican Convention – so Obama's ground team had the entire summer to attack the Republican Nominee along with the ever present MEDIA A Team for Obama – with no response – and those who criticize Romney for being a successful businessman – he would have been a great leader and role model – with character, honor, integrity vs. the DISHONEST administration we are stuck with because of you UNINFORMED/ignorant voters who vote and speak without doing any due diligence.

    June 7, 2013 02:19 am at 2:19 am |
  12. Carl

    Romney's net worth is 250M and the presidential race spending was in the billions, and that does not count local spending for ground troops. Mitt couldn't buy the election as so many here are complaining about. I think there are campaign finance laws as well regarding individual contributions.

    June 7, 2013 02:20 am at 2:20 am |
  13. James

    "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.

    Not sorry for the hundred people that died. Not sorry the nation suffered a major disaster. No. Mitt just wish it had happened some other time, when it didn't interfere with his run. I wish the hurricane hadn't have happened WHEN it did...when it did.

    June 7, 2013 02:31 am at 2:31 am |
  14. Quasi

    Did he really think the US electorate were stupid enough to NOT see though his lies and stupid ideas?

    We showed him, and Ross Perot where the door was, in Trumps. LOL

    June 7, 2013 02:43 am at 2:43 am |
  15. NyteShayde

    "Oh, I love Paul. I mean I will always have a very special feeling for Paul..."

    Me too. It's called nausea.

    June 7, 2013 02:43 am at 2:43 am |
  16. Traitor Waiter

    Anne Romney knew by 8pm that it was over...
    While 47% of the country knew it was over before it began.
    Mitt... Take your money, sit on a beach somewhere, tip your waitress a higher percentage than you pay taxes, and stay out of the way of progress. PLEASE!

    June 7, 2013 03:34 am at 3:34 am |
  17. BD70

    If Romney had won we would be definitely ruled by corporate america. He wanted to privatize everything from Medicare to SS. Can't imagine living in a for profit only country. In regards to the IRS ...wasn't some of this misuse of tax payer money gong on in 2006? Which means if Romney had one it would have been his scandal not this administrations.

    June 7, 2013 03:40 am at 3:40 am |
  18. Eric

    "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.

    June 7, 2013 03:41 am at 3:41 am |
  19. Damb S

    Paul was great. He couldn't even win in his own district but hey who is counting?.

    June 7, 2013 03:54 am at 3:54 am |
  20. Andrew

    I wish they would take questions. I want to know if they are still paying half the tax rate that all the rest of are?

    June 7, 2013 04:16 am at 4:16 am |
  21. sincitybonobo

    By March, I knew.

    June 7, 2013 04:39 am at 4:39 am |
  22. zenthrop

    OBAMA: Harvard funding unknown, Transcripts and thesis not released, Mentored by Frank Marshall Davis (card carrying, FBI tracked communist), Community Organizer (3 or 4 jobs), 20 years with Jeremiah Wright’s black liberation theology (class warfare), one term senator who was never there, mortgage paid by Tony Rezko (now in prison), Bill Ayers friend (radical terrorist), “The Food Stamp President” (touts the ‘workers paradise’ lie), Solyndra (-1100 jobs),War on coal (-9000 jobs),Stimulus (-100000 jobs),"The most dangerous president in modern American history" (Marxist behind a huge federal power grab.), “After my election, I’ll have some flexibility”, “We can’t wait on Congress”, Tyrant above the law.

    June 7, 2013 04:46 am at 4:46 am |
  23. zenthrop

    ROMNEY: father was president of American Motors and three term governor of Michigan and worked with MLK, mother ran for senate, he was unpaid missionary for two years in France (long, hard, discouraging work days), valedictorian, Harvard MBA (top 5%), Harvard JD (with honors), unpaid Mormon bishop (to the 99%) unpaid Mormon stake president (to the 99.9%), gave away inheritance, Staples (89,000 jobs), Sports Authority (15,000 jobs), Domino's Pizza (7,900 jobs), quarter-billionaire, wealth placed in blind trust (no one owns him), saved Olympics, Massachusetts Governor where half of his staff were women with equal pay (four years of balanced budget and surplus), five very successful sons (three with MBAs from Harvard, one in medical residency), 18 grandchildren (cares about US future, not his own power), long happy marriage, turnaround artist for the nation.

    June 7, 2013 04:46 am at 4:46 am |
  24. Anonymous

    Romney lied about his revealing demeanor at Cranbrook and his reprehensible behavior. The 47% speech that was secretly recorded was extra disturbing in the fact that Romney was telling the truth as he saw it, but was telling it in the most politically correct light he saw. Very scary man.

    June 7, 2013 05:05 am at 5:05 am |
  25. Sane Person

    "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," – Yea, same Romney. He wishes the hurricane hadn't happend because it "allowed" Obama to show sympathy. Not because it, you know, killed people and destroyed thier homes. Romney could have easily gone and "shown sympathy" himself, but, he was probably off primping his dressage horse.

    June 7, 2013 05:26 am at 5:26 am |
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