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. amac

    It's plain the difference between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama is as the difference between night and day, between black and white, no pun intedned.

    June 7, 2013 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  2. MrRickinNH

    Now fade into the background... can't wait until I forget your name!

    June 7, 2013 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  3. logicalboomer81

    The hate and jealousy shown regarding anything that this president does is ridiculous. Historically, anytime there is a statewide disaster, you will witness the President and the state's Govenor surveying the damage. What is the big deal in this case?

    And it's good to see that Romney is still a liar and an elitist.

    June 7, 2013 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  4. MariaG

    I was a grassroots volunteer for Obama in Miami. At my local campaign office I can attest that there were over 120 workers, of which only 3 (and 2 of them floated to another office) were paid. I don't understand were he comes from by saying that Obama had more paid workers, and I am sure that the millions of volunteers take offense in this comment. He does this to mislead, to make conservatives think that they need to contribute even more money to the next campaign. What a shame. And it is a shame that in this great country, money can be more pivotal getting you elected than leadership. However, there are many of us that do see Obama as our leader and carrier of the principles we want in our government (at least for the most part). I, like many others, don't have much money to help the candidate that best suits me, so I invested time, legwork, hours under the sun talking to people, organizing, registering youth to vote, talking to students. The majority of one percenters are not democrats, they thing that money alone will do the trick. I will work the next campaign and the one after, I will work every campaign I possibly can because stepping on the middle class, taking away opportunities is not what I believe will help this country. I hope this sore loser and the ones to come understand this concept and reform their party. Otherwise, many more of these interviews, naming the wrong reasons, will come in the future.

    June 7, 2013 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  5. Ram Riva

    Corporations run the USA....you want it to continue...vote for the GOPTeaparty....this is a clear example of it

    June 7, 2013 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  6. Jeff in Virginia

    Poor poor Queen Ann the Inconsolable. Good grief.

    June 7, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  7. Rickalus

    I hope everyone reading this article notes that Romney said, "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." Being from south Louisiana and having lived through Andrew, Lilly, Rita and Isaac, I don't stand around hoping a hurricane doesn't "happen when it does". I hope and pray that hurricanes don't happen AT ALL! Romney showed his true colors in that one statement. He didn't and doesn't care about people but politics and more shamefully, disaster timing. Shame on you Mr. Romney! I would say shame on the Republican Party, but Governor Christie has enough heart for the both of you.

    June 7, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  8. Michael A Ruzicho

    His own comments ruined his election.

    June 7, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  9. Patrick Pine

    These comments simply solidfy the reason that the Presidential election was not even close – a four per cent difference totaling about 5 million more votes for President Obama than for Romney is a relatively large margin by modern historical standards. The final tally in California was something like 60% Obama 37% Romney – and that is the largest state in the country. This was not a narrow difference. Romney and many of those on the right didn't get it then and on't get it now. These comments about the timing of Sandy are both offensive (even if clearly unintended as such) and a succinct example of Romney's utter inability to show any empathy to others. And recent comments in the wake of the tornadoes in Oklahoma by prominent GOP officials (Sen. Coburn as one example) further cement the idea that many of the leaders of the GOP just don't give a hoot about average Americans or even comprehend what daily life is like for the majority of people. Unless and until GOP leaders change this – most all of the rest of what they do is simply a lot of sound and fury signifying little of substance.

    June 7, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  10. ghoster

    "By 8:00 we knew." What an inept organization he had, they should have known weeks in advance he had NO chance. Egomaniacs all.

    June 7, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  11. Anonymous

    Did this joker really expect to win when the entire GOP platform was based on pro-rape and anti-immigration? Excuse me?

    June 7, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  12. Sandy

    "Paid workers"! I worked for Obama in both elections and I got no pay! Not saying I want it, but Romney is LYING.... AGAIN.

    June 7, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  13. Sharp T

    The minute you decided to run I knew

    June 7, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  14. Scott

    Do anyone honestly think that Ann Romney is gonna do the laundry and buy the groceries?

    June 7, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  15. TomGI

    If Romney had won, right now we would be on the brink of war with Iran.

    June 7, 2013 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  16. =0

    Wow! Most of the country knew when he won the nomination! Incredible!

    June 7, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  17. BooYah

    Even when TRYING to sound "humble" or save face his choice of words show his arrogance, manipulation with facts, and how insensitive he is to anyone except himself.

    Thank God, the majority of people are smart enough not to fall for the GOP BS.

    June 7, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  18. What a Fail

    Seriously, politics are a joke. Obama stages cover-ups at every turn, and raises our debt by millions every day, Romney still can't admit that he lost, and some things are for the better and some for the worse. The only truth I have heard come from any political statement is that Obama had a larger campaign. Our government seriously needs a reform, one to erase its political agendas. Our entire system is broken, because of the basis of capitalism: make as much money as you can. Our wall street boys are trying to get every major corporation to make them more money, which includes breaking apart Microsoft, while our government looks to raise its payroll. Never once when a capital levy was being created did anybody opt to lower their own multi-million dollar salary. It's always, "How about the middle-class?" or, "What about government payed workers?"

    June 7, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  19. Brenda

    I don't care what any of the Negative Nelly's say, I really like Mitt Romney. I personally worked on his campaign making phone calls and knocking on doors. I'm from Massachusetts. He did a lot of great things here. We would be in a much better position if he were elected President. At least we would have decent jobs on the horizon. Unemployment may be at 7.6% but a lot of these jobs are crappy and dead end and millions of people are not included in the government's numbers. 7.6% is a farce.

    June 7, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  20. Waahhmbulance

    And DEMOCRATS are the party of whiners?
    "There was a hurricane at an inopportune time"
    "Obama had more paid workers that we couldn't afford"
    "He was more popular in high school and got chicks"
    "All the lies and misinformation I had sprayed out of my pampered lips caught up with me before I could take office"

    I don't understand how the deficit and spending and wasted money for the last 30 years has been solely a Republican mantra when they are in office or in control and yet they are still known as the "Conservative" party. I DO have numbers to back that up, but if you really disagree you're probably not smart enough to understand those numbers, so...

    June 7, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  21. Hairball

    This guy is just delusional all the way around. Thank God he's not the president. We'd really be in for it.

    June 7, 2013 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  22. ggggg

    ill never vote republican again until they repeal that perversion of a law not allowing subprime private corporate student loans from being discharged in bankruptcy.

    June 7, 2013 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  23. Hamburger Jones

    Mitt didn't win because he would have made a terrible president. He wanted to be president of the rich and do their heavy lifting for them, then settle back and enjoy the billions they'd pay him. The way he's whining and excusing himself now just shows he didn't have the 'sitzfleisch' for the job.

    June 7, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  24. James

    I agree the Romney campaign was inept but when your opponent is using the full power of the IRS, EPA, OSHA, and FBI to intimidate your supporters, winning the election was impossible.

    June 7, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  25. Jackson

    That's funny. I knew he'd lost the day after he put his hat in the ring as a contender. He and the misses must run on pure ego, rather than logic and data.

    June 7, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
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