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Mitt Romney emerges to discuss President Obama, campaign errors, political future (+video)

By Maeve Reston

Chicago Tribune

Published: Sunday, March 3 2013 8:45 a.m. MST

In this Nov. 7, 2012, file photo, Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney waves to supporters at an election night rally in Boston, where he conceded the race to President Barack Obama. Romney has emerged from nearly four months in seclusion for an interview with Fox News. He’s also scheduled to deliver his first postelection speech this month at Washington’s Conservative Political Action Conference.

Stephan Savoia, File, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (MCT) — For Mitt Romney , there will be no next chapter in politics — at least no third run for the presidency. But in his first post-campaign interview, the former Massachusetts governor did not shy away Sunday from his criticism of President Barack Obama and said he hoped to help the GOP regain its footing-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 said on "Fox News Sunday." "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."

Criticizing the stalemate on the sequester — $85 billion in automatic spending cuts mandated because Democrats and Republicans could not agree on terms to forestall them — the former Republican presidential nominee accused Obama of "campaigning" by flying around the country "berating Republicans," instead of pulling aside Democrats and a few Republicans to cut a deal.

"It kills me not to be there, not to be in the White House doing what needs to be done," Romney said. "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 the nation was in the midst of "a golden moment" to fix its fiscal problems, but was watching it "slip away with politics." Obama, he charged, has been more interested in winning a political victory than resolving the issue: "This is America we're talking about at a critical time," he said, "You know, Nero is fiddling."

Since his loss in November, Romney has largely faded from public view-retreating to his oceanfront home in La Jolla, Calif., and enjoying outings with his grandchildren at the beach, Disneyland and local parks. He has turned his energy toward the charitable foundation that he founded with his wife, Ann. They have renamed it the Romney Foundation for Children to focus on the plight of poor children around the world.

Reflecting on the 2012 campaign, Romney said he and his team did not effectively reach minority voters, which he called "a real mistake." He did not apologize for his assertion to donors last fall that Obama had won the election by giving "gifts" to key groups, including African Americans, Latinos and young people.

The remarks drew criticism from many of Romney's fellow Republicans, in part because they were reminiscent of his controversial comment at a private Florida fundraiser that 47 percent of Americans were looking for handouts and weren't likely to vote for him.

"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," Romney told Wallace when asked about the "gifts" comment.

Romney also said his heart told him he was going to win the presidency, but when early results came in on election night, he knew it was not to be.

The GOP nominee told "Fox News Sunday" that he knew his campaign was in trouble when exit polls suggested a close race in Florida. Romney thought he'd win the state solidly.

Obama ended up taking Florida and won the election by a wide margin in the electoral vote.

Romney says there was "a slow recognition" at that time that Obama would win — and the race soon was over when Obama carried Ohio.

Romney says the loss hit hard and was emotional. Ann Romney says she cried.

Ann Romney said that after the election she was approached by TV's "Dancing with the Stars," but declined to join the cast.

She says she'll be turning 64 soon and "I'm not really as flexible as I should be."

The interview was taped Thursday and aired Sunday.

Contributing: Associated Press

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