Mitt Romney says it ‘kills me’ not to be president, acknowledges mistakes in campaign

WASHINGTON — “It kills me” to have lost to President Obama, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney said Sunday as he acknowledged a series of missteps in his race for the White House, including a failure to reach out to minority voters and his off-the-cuff remarks widely perceived as denigrating less fortunate Americans.

“We weren’t effective taking our message to minority voters. That was a failing. That was a real mistake,” Romney said on Fox news Sunday in his first interview since losing by a wide margin in November.

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Looking relaxed in a sport jacket and open-collared shirt, Romney was joined for part of the sit down in his southern California home by his wife, Ann.

He stated flatly that he has no further political aspirations, but both he and his wife pledged to remain engaged in public life, revealing plans to establish a foundation to help the poor.

The Romneys have long been known for their generosity and philanthropic work. By focusing on helping others, however, the millionaire-turned businessman could rewrite the narrative of the campaign that he doesn’t care about working class Americans and the millions of citizens struggling to make end meet.

Romney cited as one of his biggest mistakes of the election his comments during a private fundraiser last May in which he said, in part, that “47 percent of the people…are dependent upon government” and don’t take “personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

On Sunday, Romney seemed to go out of his way to distance himself from the remarks and their interpretation, insisting they did not portray who he really is.

“It was a very unfortunate statement that I made,” he said. “It is not what I meant. I did not express myself as I wished I would have.”

“It was very harmful,” he continued. “What I said is not what I believe. That hurt. There is no question that hurt and did real damage to my campaign.”

Those close to him said getting more formally involved in philanthropic works is a natural trajectory now that Romney is out of politics.

“The one sadness I have in losing is most Americans never really had a chance to see and meet the Romneys,” said Ron Kaufman, a longtime Romney adviser and currently the Republican National Committee delegate from Massachusetts. “Mitt and Ann have always given a great deal back. I’m sure they will continue to give.”

Ann Romney, in response to a question from host Chris Wallace, said that she wished her husband’s campaign advisers had let the public learn more about his personal story and style.

“It’s true,” she said, adding, “But it’s not just the campaign’s fault. I believe it was the media’s fault as well.”

The Globe reported in a December story that Ann and her eldest son, Tagg, had urged the campaign to tell more of Romney’s personal story, an effort that received pushback from some campaign strategists who wanted to focus on Romney’s economic plan and attacks on Obama.

Though his own political career may be over, Romney did not shy away in the 30-minute interview from delving into the political debate in Washington.

In fact, he was most animated when asked about the political gridlock that has seized Washington in the early weeks of Obama’s second term, describing his disappointment at not being in power to try to bring the two parties together to cement a deal over the nation’s troubled finances.

“It is very frustrating,” he said. “The hardest thing about losing is watching the golden moment, this critical moment, slip away with politics,” Romney added.

“It kills me,” he said at another point, to not be playing a part in what he called a “once in a generational opportunity for America to solve its fiscal problems.’

“It is being squandered.”

Romney reserved his harshest words for Obama’s role in the political impasse, while refraining from any criticism of his fellow Republicans in Congress.

“What we’ve seen is the president out campaigning to the American people doing rallies around the country, flying around the country, and berating Republicans and blaming and pointing,” Romney said. “That causes the Republicans to retrench and then put up a wall and to fight back. It is a very natural emotion.”

He recalled his own experience as the Republican governor of Massachusetts facing an overwhelmingly Democratic state legislature.

“It was not lost on me to get anything done I couldn’t be attacking them,” he said. “I had to find ways to reach out to them. The president has the opportunity to lead the nation and to bring Republicans and Democrats together. It is a job he’s got to do. And it is a job only the president can do.”

Much of the interview focused on what he thought went wrong in his failed effort to unseat Obama.

At times Romney was self-deprecating about his shortcomings.

“I did better this time than I did the time before,” he laughed at one point, referring to his failed bid for the Republican nomination in 2008, “and I won’t get a third chance. I won’t do it again.”

But he denied that that his tendency to shift positions – and his more conservative rhetoric during the Republican primaries – was a main factor in his loss.

“The idea that somehow the primary made me become more conservative than I was just isn’t accurate,” he said. “On the other hand, a long and blistering primary, where people are attacking one another and where the attack sometimes are not on the mark but are creating an unfavorable impression, those things are not helpful.”

Romney also decried the dozens of presidential debates over the course of the long primary and general election season.

“You get asked questions that are kind of silly,” he remarked.

Ultimately, “I lost my election because of my campaign,” Romney said, “not because of anything anyone else did.”

Romney said he wants to stay involved in civic affairs, especially where he can be uniquely helpful.

“I’m not going to disappear,” he said. “I care about America. I care about the people that can’t find jobs. I care about my 20 grandkids and what kind of America they are going to have.”

WASHINGTON — Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney said Sunday that “it kills me” to have lost the election to President Obama, but said he made a series of campaign mistakes, with his failure to win over minority voters doing “real damage to my campaign.”

“We weren’t effective taking our message to minority voters. That was a failing. That was a real mistake,” Romney said in an interview taped for “Fox News Sunday,’’ his first since losing in November.

Looking relaxed in a sport jacket and open-collared shirt, a self-deprecating Romney took personal responsibility for the shortcomings of his campaign and pledged to remain engaged in public life through a foundation he and his wife, Ann, are establishing to aid the poor.

He was most animated, however, when asked about the political gridlock that has seized Washington in the early weeks of Obama’s second term, describing his disappointment at not being in power to try to bring the two parties together to cement a deal over the nation’s troubled finances.

“It is very frustrating,” Romney said. “The hardest thing about losing is watching the golden moment, this critical moment, slip away with politics,” he added.

“It kills me,” he said at another point, to not be playing a part in what he called a “once in a generational opportunity for America to solve its fiscal problems.’

“It is being squandered.”

Romney reserved his harshest criticism for Obama, while going easy on Republicans in Congress for their role in the political impasse.

“What we’ve seen is the president out campaigning to the American people doing rallies around the country, flying around the country, and berating Republicans and blaming and pointing,” Romney said. “That causes the Republicans to retrench and then put up a wall and to fight back. It is a very natural emotion.”

He recalled his own experience as the Republican governor of Massachusetts facing an overwhelmingly Democratic state Legislature.

“It was not lost on me to get anything done I couldn’t be attacking them,” he said. “I had to find ways to reach out to them. The president has the opportunity to lead the nation and to bring Republicans and Democrats together. It is a job he’s got to do. And it is a job only the president can do.”

Much of the interview focused on what he thought went wrong in his failed effort to unseat Obama.

“I did better this time than I did the time before,” he laughed at one point, referring to his failed bid for the Republican nomination in 2008, “and I won’t get a third chance. I won’t do it again.”

Romney acknowledged that a major self-inflicted wound was his infamous “47 percent” comment at a private fundraiser in Florida last May that was taped without his knowledge and later leaked to the media.

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what … who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims,” he said at the time. “…These are people who pay no income tax. …and so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

On Sunday Romney seemed to go out of his way to try to distance himself from the comment and its interpretation.

“It was a very unfortunate statement that I made,” he said. “It is not what I meant. I did not express myself as I wished I would have.”

“It was very harmful,” he continued. “What I said is not what I believe. That hurt. There is no question that hurt and did real damage to my campaign.”

But he denied that his widely perceived tendency to shift positions – and his more conservative rhetoric during the Republican primaries—may have also hurt his prospects in the general election.

“The idea that somehow the primary made me become more conservative than I was just isn’t accurate,” he said. “On the other hand, a long and blistering primary, where people are attacking one another and where the attack sometimes are not on the mark but are creating an unfavorable impression, those things are not helpful.”

He also decried the dozens of debates over the course of the long primary and general election campaigns.

“You get asked questions that are kind of silly,” he remarked.

But in the end, “I lost my election because of my campaign not because of anything anyone else did,” Romney said.

While he said he plans no future political career, Romney said he does intend to stay involved in national life.

“I’m not going to disappear…I care about America. I care about the people that can’t find jobs,” he said. “I care about my 20 grandkids and what kind of America they are going to have.”

Romney’s wife, Ann, who also appeared in one interview segment, said in response to a question from host Chris Wallace that “it’s true” that she wished the campaign had let the public learn more about her husband’s personal story and style.

“It’s true,” she said, adding, “But it’s not just the campaign’s fault. I believe it was the media’s fault as well.”

The Globe reported in a December story that Ann and her eldest son, Tagg, had urged the campaign to tell more of Romney’s personal story, an effort that received pushback from some campaign strategists who wanted to focus on Romney’s economic plan and attacks on Obama.

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