Former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney says it “kills” him to not be in the White House, leading the nation.
“I wish I were there. It kills me not to be there, not to be in the White House doing what needs to be done,” said Romney, in his first television interview since he lost the election.
Romney, speaking on Fox News Sunday, criticized President Obama, saying that he believed he was more focused on campaigning and less on leading the nation in solving its fiscal challenges.
“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,” said Romney.
“He’s campaigning,” he added.
The former Massachusetts governor panned Obama’s handling of the sequester debate, saying his efforts to blame GOP lawmakers for the $85 billion in cuts, which took effect on Friday, had prevented a deal.
“To date, what we've seen is a -- the president out campaigning to the American people, doing rallies around the country, flying around the country and berating Republicans and blaming and pointing,” he said. “That causes the Republicans to retrench and to put up a wall and to fight back.
Romney urged both sides to return to the table and work on a grand bargain to rein in the nation’s deficit. He said lawmakers and the White House had a “once a generational opportunity for America to solve its fiscal problems.”
“There should be a deal done here and it should be not just solving the short-term sequester issue, but dealing with the long-term fiscal challenge that America has,” he said.
“I see this as this huge opportunity and it's being squandered by politics, by people who are more interested in a political victory than they are in doing what's right for the country,” he added.
Romney also criticized the president’s efforts on immigration reform and expressed skepticism about measures to grant illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship.
“People who have come here illegally should not be given a special pathway to permanent residency or citizenship in this country merely because they've come here illegally,” he said.
Looking back at his presidential bid, Romney said he was hurt by his inability to win over minority votes and over his “47 percent” remarks.
Romney said his campaign was not “effective in taking my message primarily to minority voters.”
“That was a real weakness,” he said.
Romney also said his remark that "47 percent" of Americans believed they were "victims" and expected government to provide for them was an “unfortunate statement.”
“It's not what I meant. I didn't express myself as I wished I would have. You know, when you speak in private, uh, you don't spend as much time thinking about how something could be twisted and distorted and -- and it could come out wrong and be used,” he said.
“That hurt. There's no question that hurt and did real damage to my campaign,” he continued.
But Romney said that although his presidential bid came up short, he still hoped to have a role in the GOP and help the party recover.
“I'm not going to be the leader of the Republican Party. Other people will take that mantle,” said Romney. “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’m not going to disappear,” he added.