On Sunday, Fox News aired the first interview with Mitt Romney since the former Massachusetts governor lost the 2012 presidential race. Fox New Sunday host Chris Wallace flew out to California to interview Romney and his wife, Ann, and they dissected what went wrong for the Romney campaign, what the Romneys plan to do now, and what ails the GOP, President Obama, and America, among other topics. (Watch the Mitt Romney solo interview below.) Here, five key takeaways from Romney's first big post-election interview:
1. He and Ann thought he was going to win until the very end (think: Ohio)
Both Romneys believed they were moving to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. right up until the returns started coming in, they tell Wallace. "I think Mitt intellectually was thinking it was possible we couldn't" win, Ann says. "He knew how close it was, but my heart and whole soul was, we're going to win, I was there." Mitt agrees that "we were convinced that we'd win," even though the polls were close. "We knew the energy and passion was with our voters, and my heart said we were going to win." The first hint that his internal polls were wrong was when Florida exit polls started coming in showing a very close race — "we thought we'd win solidly in Florida," Romney says — and from there it was "a slow recognition" that he'd lost. "Ultimately, when the Ohio numbers began coming in and they were disappointing," he began to give up hope.
2. The Romneys blame his loss on his campaign, plus ObamaCare
Mitt Romney mostly blames his own campaign for his loss, singling out his poor showing among blacks, Latinos, and other minorities. The campaign wasn't "effective at taking my message primarily to minority voters," he says, and "the ObamaCare attractiveness and feature was something we underestimated... particularly among lower incomes." ObamaCare? "ObamaCare was very attractive, particularly to those without health insurance," Romney says. "And they came out in large numbers to vote."
At the same time, Romney acknowledges that his infamous "47 percent" remark "hurt and did real damage to my campaign," even though suggesting that almost half the people in the country are moochers is "not what I meant." Reinforcing a common criticism — or excuse, from supporters — that he's a "famously unprincipled political weather-vane," says Daniel Larison at The American Conservative, Romney added: "What I said is not what I believe."
Ann Romney, for her part, contributed this little "sound bite that's sure to get all kinds of rotation over several news cycles this week," says Eric Wemple at The Washington Post: "I'm happy to blame the media." She says that the campaign didn't let people "really get to know Mitt for who he was," but "it was not just the campaign's fault. I believe it was the media's fault as well" for not giving him "a fair shake." There's "a mound of contradiction" in that critique, since the campaign tightly controlled media access to Mitt Romney, says Wemple. Blaming both the campaign and the media "at the same time is a touch precious."
One thing Romney explicitly did not blame: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R). "I'm not going to worry about how Chris was doing what he thought was best for the people of his state," he says. "I lost my election because of my campaign, not because of what anyone else did."
3. Mitt Romney thinks he would be doing a better job as president
Romney doesn't have many nice things to say about the man who beat him. The president, mostly, is letting a "critical moment, this golden moment just slip away" to fix America's long-term fiscal problems.
It kills me not to be there, not to be in the White House doing what needs to be done. The president is the leader of the nation. The president brings people together, does the deals, does the trades, knocks the heads together. The president leads. And — and I don't see that kind of — of leadership happening right now. [Fox News]
Instead, Obama is "out campaigning to the American people, doing rallies around the country, flying around the country and berating Republicans and blaming and pointing," which only makes GOP lawmakers "retrench and then put up a wall and to fight back." Maybe Romney is right that he "would have been better at working out a deal, says Ann Althouse at her blog, "but Obama, being better at campaigning, won the election, and if what he is doing now is more campaigning... well, that's the downside of democracy, isn't it? We judge the campaigns. We don't know what expertise they'd bring to negotiating and reconciling differences."
4. Ann Romney was invited on Dancing With the Stars, but not to run in a Senate race
Ann Romney, who earned a reputation as a very effective advocate for her husband, tells Wallace that after the election she considered, but then turned down, an offer to compete on ABC's Dancing with the Stars. "I would've loved to have done it, and I am turning 64, and I started thinking about it," she says. "I'm not really as flexible as I should be." She was not approached by the Republican Party about running for the Massachusetts Senate seat vacated by John Kerry, however. "I think there was a thought that, 'Oh, wouldn't that be fun for Ann to do that,'" she says, before adding that it wouldn't have been fun, and she will never run for elective office.
5. It's not clear what's next for the Romneys
This interview was phase one of Mitt Romney's return to public life, soon to be followed by a high-profile speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). But Romney didn't say what his long-term plans are. "I'm not going to disappear," he tells Wallace. "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." But if he's planning to stay in public life, there's a real question about "whether anybody cares," says John Avlon at The Daily Beast. As Wallace points out, it's not like the GOP is clamoring for his return.
Expect plenty of semi-polite anti-Obama-isms alongside resentful reimaginings of what he'd be doing differently as president in the Romney revival tour. It's a necessary catharsis, part of the process of bridging their past with their future. There will be few die-hard Mitt Romney fans when the history books are written, though.... But there is one redeeming quality that even cynics and hardened opponents can't take away from the Romneys — "fortunately, we like each other" as Ann Romney says in the interview, as her husband looks adoringly on. That's more than some political couples can say when the crowds depart and the cheering stops. [Daily Beast]
Watch the entire interview: