Does Mitt Romney have a political life after losing the presidency?
In his first post-election interview, Mitt Romney tells Fox News why
he thinks he lost: failure to connect with minorities and the
devastating impact of his ’47 percent’ comment. He hopes to have a
future in the Republican Party, but as ‘the guy who lost,’ that’s
By Brad Knickerbocker
Rebuilding your political life after a failed presidential bid is
tough under any circumstances – especially so if you don’t have, say,
a seat in the US Senate or the governor’s office to go back to, as
John McCain, John Kerry, and Michael Dukakis did.
It can take months – years – to get something new going, something
befitting the ambition and ego of one who thought he should be
president. Just ask Jimmy Carter or Al Gore or George H.W. Bush.
Mitt Romney is finding this out.
The Republican presidential standard-bearer last year not only has to
deal with personal political failure after twice shooting for the
White House. He’s also the symbol of the GOP’s major problem these
days: the failure to connect with an electorate that is becoming
younger and more diverse than its membership – certainly more moderate
than the party’s leadership.
Mr. Romney may have had a good personal story to tell – an attractive
family, a life of quiet good works tied to his Mormon faith – but it
came too late in the presidential campaign. Plus, there was no way he
could dispel his image as a really, really rich white guy who had
trouble relating to working families and less-fortunate Americans –
the “47 percent” he derided in talking to campaign donors.
For the record, at least, few Republicans or conservative leaders
speak unkindly of Romney these days.
“Certainly he gave a lot for the cause,” Tim Phillips, president of
the national conservative group Americans for Prosperity, told the
Associated Press. “But most of the movement is wanting to look
forward. They want to look forward to the next generation of leaders.”
“We need as many voices for conservative reform and leadership as
possible,” said Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, among those Republicans
thought to be weighing a 2016 presidential bid.
“I welcome Governor Romney and anybody else who will help to make that
message and help to take that fight.”
Whether or not that happens, Romney after four months spent
recuperating emotionally at the family’s beach home in La Jolla,
Calif., has begun to reemerge to public view.
He and Ann Romney sat down for an interview in the friendly territory
of Fox News. Later this month, he’ll give his first post-campaign
speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.
It’s not exactly a “Romney Revival Tour,” as the Daily Beast’s John
Avlon tongue-in-cheeks it. But it’s a start.
Speaking to Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday,” Romney talked of his loss.
“It kills me not to be there, not to be in the White House doing what
needs to be done,” Romney said. “The hardest thing about losing is
watching this critical moment, this golden moment slip away… It’s
It slipped away early, he learned election night, with the loss of
Florida and then Ohio. “By 8 or 9 o’clock, it was clear that we were
not going to win,” he remembers.
Romney calls his “47 percent” comment “very unfortunate.”
“It’s not what I meant. I didn’t express myself as I wished I would
have,” he told Fox News. “You know, when you speak in private, you
don’t spend as much time thinking about how something could be twisted
and distorted… There’s no question that hurt and did real damage to
It didn’t take much twisting or distorting to see the potential damage
in the full comment, made at a private fund-raiser in Boca Raton,
Fla., last May: “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… 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.”
Romney also acknowledges what he describes as a lack of effectiveness
in his message to Hispanic and African-American voters. “That was a
real mistake,” he told Fox.
Romney dinged President Obama for how the man who beat him in last
November’s election has handled the whole “sequester” fiasco.
“No one can think that’s been a success for the president,” he said.
“He didn’t think the sequester would happen. It is happening.”
“But to date, 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,” he continued. “And blaming and
pointing. Now what does that do? That causes the Republicans to
retrench and then put up a wall and fight back. It’s a very natural
Today, Mitt Romney has a realistic view of his place in American
politics, a view tinged with longing.
“I recognize that I lost, so I’m not going to be the leader of the
Republican Party. Other people will take that mantle,” he said. “But I
want to have influence on getting our party into a position where we
can be successful in solving the problems the country has… I
recognize that as the guy who lost the election, I’m not in a position
to tell everybody else how to win, all right? They’re not going to
listen, and I don’t have the credibility to do that anyway. But I