Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, did not win his race for the White House, but in his first post-election interview today on "Fox News Sunday," he wants everyone - friends and foes alike - to know that he's not exiting stage right.
In a wide-ranging discussion, the former Massachusetts governor and his wife, Ann Romney, opened up on the reasons for their loss, their adjustment to life after the campaign, and President Obama's leadership since his reelection, making clear that they were disappointed by the loss, but even more disappointed about the direction the country has taken since then.
"Nero is fiddling," Romney said, likening the president to the infamous Roman emperor who played his fiddle as Rome burned.
"No one can think" that the fight over the sequester "has been a success for the president," Romney argued. "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 suggested that the president may be more interested in "showing pain" and wielding the sequester as a weapon against Republicans than in actually finding compromise.
And that adversarial, campaign-style politicking, Romney said, has poisoned the well of compromise instead of enabling the president to engage with opposition. "I don't see that kind of leadership right now," he said, and "it kills me not to be in there, not to be in the White House" to provide that direction.
Instead, after his loss, he watches, more bystander than inside player. But until the very end, Mitt Romney said, he was convinced that it would turn out differently. "We were convinced that we would win." When talking about the moment it became clear, after the numbers from Ohio began rolling in on election night, that victory was slipping out of reach, he said "it's hard, it's emotional."
Ann Romney described the "crushing disappointment" she felt - "Not for us, our lives are going to be fine. It's for the country."
"For me, yeah, I cried," she said.
Mitt Romney likened his exit from the campaign trail to stepping off an amusement park ride. "We were on a roller coaster - exciting and thrilling, ups and downs," he explained. "But the ride ends, and then you get off."
And despite the unfortunate outcome, Romney said he does not dwell on what might have been. "I went through a number of my mistakes, I'm sure...but you move on. I don't spend my life looking back. It's like, OK, what are we going to do next?"
"I think it takes time," Ann Romney added. "I'm mostly over it."