In this Fox News Sunday Show With Chris Wallace: Exclusive: Mitt and Ann Romney on campaign mistakes, life after presidential election loss and political future
WALLACE: And hello, again, from Fox News in Washington.
They were in the spotlight for years, speaking to big crowds and tracked by reporters. But, since their defeat, four months ago, Mitt and Ann Romney have gone silent. That is until now.
This week, we flew to San Diego to sit down with the Romneys for their first interview since the campaign. We talked about why they lost. What they make of the mess here in Washington. And, how they are dealing with a life they didn’t expect to be leading now.
WALLACE: Take me back to Election Day, November 6th. Is it true that you both thought, going in, you were going to win?
ANN ROMNEY: Well, I for sure did. I think Mitt intellectually was thinking it was possible we couldn’t. He knew how close it was but my heart and whole soul was, we’re going to win, I was there.
MITT ROMNEY: Yes, I think we were convinced that we’d win. We saw that the polls were very close. But we knew the energy and passion was with our voters and my heart said we were going to win.
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BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Crucial swing state of Virginia, the commonwealth where the race is excruciatingly close.
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WALLACE: As the returns started coming in and they were not what you expected, what were your thoughts?
MITT ROMNEY: The exit polls came out first, and, suggested that it was going to be very close in Florida and we thought we’d win solidly in Florida and it was increasingly clear that this was going to be with the best case scenario, a long night.
WALLACE: When did you know you had lost the presidential?
MITT ROMNEY: It was a slow recognition, until ultimately, when the Ohio numbers began coming in and they were disappointing. I said, look, this looks like we have lost. Wasn’t certain. Some people said, oh, look, if this number here comes in, you could win, but, you know, by 8:00 or 9:00, it was pretty clear that we were not going to win. And —
WALLACE: And what was that moment like?
MITT ROMNEY: Well, it’s hard. It’s emotional. I mean, there was such passion in the people who were helping us, I just felt, you know, we have really let them down.
ANN ROMNEY: It was a crushing disappointment. Not for us. Our lives are going to be fine. It’s for the country.
WALLACE: Is it true you began to cry?
ANN ROMNEY: I did, of course. Yes. Very disappointed.
WALLACE: Cry for what?
ANN ROMNEY: Cry — it’s not — again, is not sorrow for, oh, my gosh, you know, our lives are, you know, this dream — the dream was to make a difference. The dream was to serve.
WALLACE: And you called the president and came downstairs and delivered your formal concession.
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MITT ROMNEY: I so wish I had been able to fulfill your hopes to lead the country in a different direction. But the nation chose another leader and so, Ann and I join with you to earnestly pray for him and for this great nation.
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MITT ROMNEY: It was all the people, who had helped, that counted on us, that came to mind. As I got up to speak and I look around that room, and I saw the people who were there and I believe I could have made a difference for the people in this country and you think, gosh, I just hadn’t been able to get the job done and it was very hard.
WALLACE: In a flash, it was all gone, Secret Service, the crowds, the intensity, the minute-by-minute schedule and suddenly, nothing. How tough was that?
ANN ROMNEY: It’s an adjustment. You know, it’s interesting; in our church, we’re used to serving and you know, you can be in a very high position, but you recognize you’re serving.
And now all of a sudden, you’re released and you’re nobody. And we’re used to that. It’s like we came and stepped forward to serve. But the good news is fortunately we like each other.
ANN ROMNEY: And we like being with each other.
MITT ROMNEY: That’s our life.
I mean, our life is the life we have with each other and with five sons, five daughters-in-law, and 20 grandchildren. But that’s our life. That’s who we are.
WALLACE: But isn’t it tough when suddenly the Secret Service —
MITT ROMNEY: Well, it’s different. But it’s like, you know, riding on a roller coaster. We were on a roller coaster, exciting and thrilling, ups and downs. But the ride ends. And then you get off. And it’s not like, oh, can’t we be on a roller coaster the rest of our life? It’s like, no, the ride’s over.
WALLACE: So let me ask you about the months from November until now, were there tears?
ANN ROMNEY: Oh, for me, yes. I cried. When you pour that much of your life and energy and passion into something and you’re disappointed by the outcome, it’s very — it’s sad. It’s very hard.
WALLACE: Governor, second guessing? Anger? Depression?
MITT ROMNEY: No, you look back at the campaign and say, OK, what did the president do well and you acknowledge that his campaign did a number of things very effectively. Of course, you rehearse all the mistakes that you made. And I went through a number of my mistakes, I’m sure. And then you think about the things that were out of our control.
But you move on. I mean, I don’t spend my life looking back. It’s like, OK, what are we going to do next?
WALLACE: Governor, we begin to see random pictures of you, pumping your own gas with your hair messed up; hugging Ann in the kitchen, hanging out with the kids at Disneyland. Did you have a plan? Or were you just trying to get through the day?
MITT ROMNEY: No, we were just living our life. And obviously people would see us in various places, either walking along the beach or, in this case, getting gas for the car. And they’d take out their cell phones and take a picture. None of those were done by professional photographers or I might have, you know, combed my hair, seen them coming.
But, no, we’re just living our life.
WALLACE: Mrs. Romney, as we sit here right now, have you gotten over the defeat? Or is that going to take more time?
ANN ROMNEY: I think it takes time. I think I’m mostly — you know, the great “Princess Bride” line, “mostly dead.”
I’m mostly over it. But not completely.
And you have moments where you, you know, go back and feel the sorrow of the loss. And so, yes, I think we’re not mostly dead yet.
WALLACE: A week after the election, Governor, you had a conference call with top donors, in which you said that — you blamed your defeat on the president giving away things.
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MITT ROMNEY: It’s a proven political strategy which is, you have a bunch of money from the government to a group and, guess what, they’ll vote for you.
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WALLACE: To some people, it sounded like the remark you made in your campaign about 47 percent of Americans looking for handouts.
MITT ROMNEY: The president had the power of incumbency. ObamaCare was very attractive, particularly to those without health insurance. And they came out in large numbers to vote. So that was part of a successful campaign.
WALLACE: But fairly or not, you know a lot of Republican leaders roasted you for those remarks. Iowa Governor Branstad, “My feeling is we need to turn the page.” GOP strategist Ed Rogers, “He” — you — “can exit the stage anytime and no one will mourn.”
Did that hurt? Did you feel, in a sense, you were being pushed out of the party?
MITT ROMNEY: I’m not going to second-guess what other people have to say. Look, I don’t look back. I look forward.
ANN ROMNEY: You never like it. And I never like it. And I — you know, I’m like a she-lion when it comes to defending Mitt. And I know — I know his heart; I know his abilities. I know he would have been a fabulous president and I mourn the fact that he’s not there.
And it would have been — it would have been much better for America, I believe, in my heart if he had been there right now. WALLACE: We’re going to talk to your husband separately. You’re going to have to just sit here for a minute. But I want to ask Mrs. Romney a few questions.
ANN ROMNEY: That’s going to be hard.
WALLACE: All right. Well —
MITT ROMNEY: I’ll say nothing.
WALLACE: Why do you think he lost?
ANN ROMNEY: I think they had a better ground game. And I think we were not aware — you know, we certainly had the passion coming from our side, and I don’t think we were as aware of the passion that was coming from the other side. I think we were a little blindsided by that.
WALLACE: Do you think that the two of you at all contributed to this image, which the other side certainly played up, that you were so wealthy that you were somehow out of touch with the concerns of the average American?
ANN ROMNEY: You know, that’s — that’s a reality that, you know, you can’t change. I mean, we are who we are. The thing that was frustrating to me is that people didn’t really get to know Mitt for who he was.
WALLACE: Well, I want to pick up on that, because there were reports that you and your oldest son, Tag, were frustrated with the Romney campaign, that they didn’t, quote, “let Mitt be Mitt,” that they didn’t let him show his more open, compassionate side. True?
ANN ROMNEY: Well, of course. It was partly — it’s true. But it was not just the campaign’s fault. I believe it was the media’s fault as well, is that he was not giving — being given a fair shake, that people weren’t allowed to really see him for who he was.
WALLACE: All right, what about the media?
ANN ROMNEY: I’m happy to blame the media.
WALLACE: Do you think the media was in the tank for Barack Obama?
ANN ROMNEY: I think that it’s — anytime you’re running for office, you always think that you’re being portrayed unfairly.
And, you know, we — of course, on our side believe that there’s more bias in favor of the other side. I think that that’s a pretty universal — universally-felt opinion.
WALLACE: What do you think of the campaign that Barack Obama ran?
ANN ROMNEY: I think, obviously, it was a winning campaign. It worked.
WALLACE: Do you think it was fair?
ANN ROMNEY: No.
WALLACE: In what way?
ANN ROMNEY: Portrayal of my husband. He is an exceptional, wonderful person.
MITT ROMNEY: She’s not biased at all.
ANN ROMNEY: I’m not biased! And, you know, and he — I mean, he really is a selfless person that really, truly cared about the American people. He truly cares about making a difference and about helping others. And for him to be portrayed in a very negative light in another way was very hard.
He has enormous skill set in dealing with difficult issues and I totally believe at this moment if Mitt were there in the office, that we would not be facing sequestration right now.
WALLACE: So, what is your life like now? What are you doing? How do you spend your days? Governor, you can — now you can talk.
MITT ROMNEY: My turn again.
MITT ROMNEY: We’ve renamed our foundation The Romney Foundation for Children. We’re going to help the very poorest kids on the world. We’re going to help kids in this country with disease and great difficulty. And that’s taking more and more of our time.
We’ve got a chance to spend more time with the grandkids. We just had twins born, as you know, and being with them was a thrill.
WALLACE: I have to clear up a couple of rumors. Were you approached by “Dancing with the Stars”?
ANN ROMNEY: I was.
WALLACE: And did you consider it?
ANN ROMNEY: I did consider it. I was — I love the show. I love the show.
WALLACE: And why aren’t you going to be out there doing the Paso Doble?
ANN ROMNEY: Well, you know —
MITT ROMNEY: I’m impressed you know what that is.
ANN ROMNEY: I would’ve loved to have done it, and I am turning 64, and I started thinking about it. I’m not really as flexible as I should be.
ANN ROMNEY: And now I know — I understand, Dorothy Hamill has been picked, and I thought, oh my gosh, am I glad I didn’t do that! I wouldn’t want to compete against Dorothy!
WALLACE: Did the Republican Party approach you about running for John Kerry’s Senate seat?
ANN ROMNEY: No.
WALLACE: That’s not true.
ANN ROMNEY: I’m sure — no, they didn’t approach me. I don’t think — I think there was a thought that, oh, wouldn’t that be fun for Ann to do that. I’m like, did anyone want to consider how fun it would be for me to do that?
WALLACE: Not a chance?
ANN ROMNEY: Not a chance! I’m enjoying life.
WALLACE: Tell us about the grandchildren and your involvement with them.
ANN ROMNEY: We’re with them constantly. It’s our life.
MITT ROMNEY: I mean, it’s virtually every day. We see the — one grandchild or another every day.
ANN ROMNEY: Every day.
MITT ROMNEY: We took them to Disneyland. We took them snow skiing.
And then our son — sons Matt and Craig live close to an open space area. We throw the ball for the dogs, we play sports with the kids. They like kicking balls, hitting baseballs. You know, we do the things that grandparents are expected to do with grandkids.
WALLACE: Looking back and now, how do you both feel about what you’ve been through and where you are now?
ANN ROMNEY: I wish everyone could have just been in our pockets, gone with us, and seen what we had seen. And what you see when you see that are the heart of the American people.
I leave discouraged by the outcome of the election, but also optimistic about America, because of the people that live here. It’s an amazing place.
MITT ROMNEY: It was an exciting, thrilling experience. And it didn’t end the way we wanted it to, but the experience itself was magnificent.
Were there tough days? Absolutely. Were there exhilarating days? Yes, even more of them.
And so, I count it one of the great life experiences. Anybody would say, can you imagine anything more fantastic than being able to run for president of the United States? And to —
WALLACE: I think of one thing more exciting — winning.
MITT ROMNEY: Yes, winning. But the experience — but two years — and we’ve done it twice. Two years of really seeing the American people.
It’s a great, thrilling experience of a lifetime, that we will obviously cherish throughout our lifetime.
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