Romney Blames Loss on Obama’s ‘Gifts’ to Minorities and Young Voters
By ASHLEY PARKER
A week after losing the election to President Obama, Mitt Romney blamed his overwhelming electoral loss on what he said were big “gifts” that the president had bestowed on loyal Democratic constituencies, including young voters, African-Americans and Hispanics.
In a conference call on Wednesday afternoon with his national finance committee, Mr. Romney said that the president had followed the “old playbook” of wooing specific interest groups — “especially the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people,” Mr. Romney explained — with targeted gifts and initiatives.
“In each case they were very generous in what they gave to those groups,” Mr. Romney said.
“With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest, was a big gift,” he said. “Free contraceptives were very big with young college-aged women. And then, finally, Obamacare also made a difference for them, because as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents’ plan, and that was a big gift to young people. They turned out in large numbers, a larger share in this election even than in 2008.”
The president’s health care plan, he added, was also a useful tool in mobilizing African-American and Hispanic voters. Though Mr. Romney won the white vote with 59 percent, according to exit polls, minorities coalesced around the president in overwhelming numbers — 93 percent of blacks and 71 percent of Hispanics voted to re-elect Mr. Obama.
“You can imagine for somebody making $25,000 or $30,000 or $35,000 a year, being told you’re now going to get free health care, particularly if you don’t have it, getting free health care worth, what, $10,000 per family, in perpetuity, I mean, this is huge,” he said. “Likewise with Hispanic voters, free health care was a big plus. But in addition with regards to Hispanic voters, the amnesty for children of illegals, the so-called Dream Act kids, was a huge plus for that voting group.”
In the 20-minute call —which also featured an appearance by Neil Newhouse, the campaign’s pollster, Spencer Zwick, the national finance chairman, and Mason Fink, the finance director — Mr. Romney was by turns disappointed and pragmatic, expressing his frustration that he’d failed to defeat Mr. Obama on Election Day.
“I’m very sorry that we didn’t win,” he said on the call. “I know that you expected to win, we expected to win, we were disappointed with the result, we hadn’t anticipated it, and it was very close but close doesn’t count in this business.”
He continued: “And so now we’re looking and saying, ‘O.K., what can we do going forward?’ But frankly we’re still so troubled by the past, it’s hard to put together our plans from the future.”
He added half-jokingly that the close-knit group, which excelled in fund-raising but was ultimately unable to propel Mr. Romney into the Oval Office, could even help with “perhaps the selection of a future nominee — which, by the way, will not be me.”
“We’re looking to see how we go forward with an effort to maintain a connection between all of us, to meet perhaps annually, and to keep in touch with a monthly newsletter or something of that nature, and to stay connected so that we can stay informed and have influence on the direction of the party,” he said.
Still, Mr. Romney, ever the data-driven former consultant, offered a brief post-mortem analysis of where he and his campaign had fallen short. Last Wednesday and Thursday, he had convened informal what-went-wrong sessions in his Boston headquarters, where he and a small team of senior advisers pored over the numbers with Mr. Newhouse. And on the call, Mr. Romney also echoed a theme from the campaign trail, saying that while Mr. Obama “made a big effort on small things,” his message had been about “big issues.”
“Our campaign, in contrast, was talking about big issues for the whole country — military strategy, foreign policy, a strong economy, creating jobs and so forth,” he said. “And by the way, as you’ll hear from Neil, our strategy worked well with many people, but for those who were given a specific gift, if you will, our strategy did not work terribly well.”
On the call, described as a “spin and grin” by someone who dialed in, Mr. Romney also made sure to thank his national finance team.
“I know how much work you did,” he said, at the outset. “It is not easy to do what you did, all the calls, all the efforts, all of the organizational work, the fund-raisers you hosted. It was well beyond anyone’s expectation and I appreciate it very deeply.”