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. Luke,AZ

    Willard Romney does not possess presidential qualities. President Obama does possess presidential qualities. That's why Romney lost.

    June 6, 2013 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  2. Cambridge Ray

    She can go back with her home with horse elevators...

    June 6, 2013 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  3. eVAN

    romney calling obama the spoiled rich kid who gets what he wants. pretty funny.

    June 6, 2013 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  4. Obama

    If the idiot Mtt thinks he lost the election because Christie was seen with Obama, he's a bigger idiot thank I originally thought and Ann we knew months before that your're idiot husband had lost the election. I pray that the two of you find a hobby and can please move on.

    June 6, 2013 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  5. Mick

    Poor Mitt, I think that he made several mistakes. First he chose as his running mate a far-right politico who said publicly that the wants to get rid of Social Security and Medicare. How negative – go ahead and count the voters switching over to Obama. When Romney appeared at the debate sponsored by PBS, he turned to Jim Lehrer and told him that he would lose his job if he won. How foolish, since many of us look to PBS as fair and unbiased, certainly not Fox News or MSNBC. He got what he deserved and we got was we deserved.

    June 6, 2013 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  6. Mopery

    Really? Because by October 1st, I knew.

    June 6, 2013 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  7. Chaerlotte

    What a waste of bandwidth.

    June 6, 2013 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  8. Lewy

    "By 8:00, I think we knew it was – it wasn't going well." – I knew waaaay before that.

    June 6, 2013 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  9. Mark

    Even now, he can't bear to be honest with himself. He and his party gave the finger to blacks, women,Latinos, gays, auto workers, union members and young Americans and yet he won't admit that the positions he took and the policies he expounded were the reason he got his butt kicked in last November. There was not a single piece of data that suggested he was going to win the election, but he was confident of victory. Why? The man has no connection to reality and all we can hope for is that he goes away and stays away.

    June 6, 2013 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  10. Russ

    Excuses upon excuses. It's Obama's fault he lost the election. Well at least he has that right if you can say it was Obama's that Romney was a terrible stuffed shirt candidate. Come on Mittens take some blame for losing. It was yours to win, but you failed.

    June 6, 2013 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  11. lazurite

    For Romney to say he lost because he was "outmatched by his opponent's massive organization" shows clearly how clueless he still is. He lost because his party alienated women, minorities and gays.

    June 6, 2013 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  12. truthteller

    Rich White guys deciding who's turn it is to try to Rule the Country. More of the same old GOP.

    June 6, 2013 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  13. Aud

    I don't dislike Romney as a human being; but like another poster said, he is entirely out of touch with America. What really hurt him (at least with the undeciders) I think, was the secretly-taped speech.

    June 6, 2013 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  14. BassinProf

    LOL! Like Ann Romney really does her own laundry and grocery shopping. Yeah right!

    June 6, 2013 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  15. J.B.B.

    Reply to kitcole: spot on!! I agree with you 1,000 per cent! Every time I hear someone complain about all the problems that are in effect and the problems that are still to come, I just think to myself ... "Then why did you vote B.O. in the second time??"

    June 6, 2013 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  16. jkane sfl the gop national disgrace party will be swept out like the trash they are in2014 ?

    Romney should self deport to kolob or Utah .gritted q

    June 6, 2013 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  17. A

    Usual BS and sour grapes by the loser. As for the comments about not having the money that Obama had, how come the Republicans spent $6 million more on the election that the Democrats ! The Democrats didn't have a 10:1 advantage in workers and spending, just a more reasonable set of policies that didn't offend or alienate have the population.

    June 6, 2013 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  18. Erik

    Saying Romney "didn't get the turnout from minority voters" needed implies a larger minority turnout would have benefited him. Romney's problem was too many voted. He needed a substantially lower minority turnout.

    June 6, 2013 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  19. ladeeda

    The IRS issue would not have changed the outcome because those groups did not need IRS preapproval to operate. It did noting to stop them from engaging in their activitiilles.

    Because of this there could have been no political motive to target them (because they could still operate) so there would be nothing to gain.

    In addition those who applied for 527 or the "political" tax exempt status were not even backlogged or targeted. It was only the ones attempting to get the social welfare tax exempt status 501(c)4 that were backlogged, and those organizations are not supposed to be primarily political anyway – and as I said – they were not stopped from operating. So it could have made no difference.

    June 6, 2013 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  20. mark

    "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," This guy does not give a hoot about real people.

    June 6, 2013 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  21. Carl

    Anonymous said:
    "Romney stated he wants to "unite" the country. Judging by his comments Mitt Romney is a sore loser hellbent on a personal revenge tour. This "tour" of Romney's reminds me of the GOP effort of trying to rebrand itself by spewing the same bs over and over."

    Obama was supposed to be the great uniter, remember? There are no red states, blue states. There is the United States. Under his leadership he wpould have the most transparent government ever. And so on...lies, corruption, reverse racism

    June 6, 2013 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  22. Dave

    He could never win because he could not even pretend to relate to people. He said that he "enjoyed " firing people. It is not something to brag about, ending some person means of employment. His 47 % comment was the true Mitt and it hurt his chances beyond anything else. He is a spoiled little rich kid who thinks because he was born on third base, he should get credit for a home run. If you want to know what is wrong with this country, look at people like him. They take and take and blame others for all the problems that their greed caused.

    June 6, 2013 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  23. snowdogg

    "because he could afford them and we couldn't," he said.

    Oh, really? That $600+ mil your buddy Rove raised didn't do the trick. Maybe, just maybe Mitt – the people didn't like you and what you have stood for... the advancement of the 1%.

    June 6, 2013 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  24. Former GOP

    ........By 8 PM they knew.......HECK....by JUNE the rest of us KNEW.............

    June 6, 2013 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  25. timvervba

    "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.
    – – – – –
    It is kind of odd that the billionaire Romney is pleading poverty as the reason why he could not attract enough 'volunteers' to work on his campaign and get out the vote.

    June 6, 2013 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
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