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Mitt Romney criticizes Obama, admits campaign mistakes

He accuses Obama of 'berating Republicans' instead of seeking bipartisan resolutions to federal spending cuts. Romney also says he does not envision a future in politics.

March 03, 2013|By Maeve Reston, Los Angeles Times
  • "It kills me not to be there, not to be in the White House doing what needs to be done,” Mitt Romney told host Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.”
"It kills me not to be there, not to be in the White House doing what needs… (Fox News Channel )

Stepping back into the spotlight for the first time Sunday, Mitt Romney offered a blunt critique of President Obama — accusing his former rival of playing politics rather than finding a resolution to across-the-board spending cuts now being enacted.

The former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential nominee acknowledged a handful of mistakes in his first post-campaign interview with "Fox News Sunday," during which he also said he did not envision a future in politics. He called his failure to engage minorities in 2012 "a real mistake" and admitted that he had suffered "real damage" from the fallout of his now-infamous comments that 47% of Americans were dependent on government assistance and unlikely to vote for him.

But he did not back away from his controversial assertion that Obama won the election by securing the loyalty of key groups such as Latinos and African Americans with programs like his healthcare plan. Romney's wife, Ann, admitted that the couple was "blindsided" by the passion for president on the other side.

Weighing in on the debate over the $85 billion in automatic spending cuts to go into effect because Democrats and Republicans could not reach an agreement, Romney accused the president of flying around the country "berating Republicans" instead of digging into the hard work of bringing both sides together to avoid the so-called sequester.

"It kills me not to be there, not to be in the White House doing what needs to be done," Romney told "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace. "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 I don't see that kind of leadership happening right now."

Romney said Obama was squandering a "golden moment" to fix the nation's fiscal problems because he was too focused on winning a political victory. "This is America we're talking about at a critical time," he said. "You know, Nero is fiddling."

The former nominee said, however, that he would not run for president a third time. While he hopes to help his party regain its footing, he said he would do so from a distance.

"I recognize that as the guy who lost the election, I'm not in a position to tell everybody else how to win," Romney told Wallace. "They're not going to listen, and I don't have the credibility to do that anyway. But I still care. And I still believe that there are principles that we need to stand for."

After his loss in November, Romney largely disappeared from public view — retreating to his oceanfront home in La Jolla and enjoying outings with his grandchildren at the beach and at Disneyland. Sources close to the former governor say he is still weighing his next steps but has turned much of his energy toward his charitable foundation, which has been renamed the Romney Foundation for Children to focus on the plight of poor children around the world.

When on the East Coast, Romney has been working out of the Boston offices of Solamere, the venture capital firm founded by his son Tagg and his former campaign finance director Spencer Zwick. He has told friends that he intends to help out at Solamere, as well at the businesses of three of his other sons, who work in real estate development.

Reflecting on the campaign, Romney credited his rival's team with more successfully reaching out to voters, which he said was possible because Obama had no primary opponent.

He stood by his view that some of the president's programs were crucial in swaying key constituencies like African Americans, Latinos and young people — a product, he said, of "the power of incumbency." During a private call with donors after the election, Romney expressed that thought more bluntly by saying the administration won over those constituencies with "gifts."

"Obamacare was very attractive, particularly to those without health insurance. And they came out in large numbers to vote," Romney told Wallace in the "Fox News Sunday" interview taped last week. He added that the campaign had underestimated how important the president's healthcare program would be to lower-income voters.

But when asked by Wallace about criticism from fellow Republicans about his "gifts" remark, Romney brushed it aside. "I'm not going to second-guess what other people have to say," he said. "I don't look back. I look forward."

Despite his loss, Romney suggested there was a silver lining in the 2012 contest. When asked to rate himself as a candidate, he alluded to his 2008 campaign, telling Wallace, "I did better this time than I did the time before."

Putting an end to a swirl of speculation earlier this year, Ann Romney said she was never formally approached by the Republican Party about running for the Massachusetts U.S. Senate seat vacated by Secretary of State John F. Kerry. "Not a chance," she told Wallace when asked whether she had considered running. "I'm enjoying life."

She did confirm, however, that she considered taking a spot on "Dancing With the Stars" and "would've loved to have done it."

But, she said, "I am turning 64, and I started thinking about it — I'm not really as flexible as I should be."

The selection of Dorothy Hamill as a contestant, she said, confirmed that she had made the right decision. "I thought, oh my gosh, am I glad I didn't do that. I wouldn't want to compete against Dorothy!"

maeve.reston@latimes.com

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