Mitt Romney Exclusive: Former GOP presidential candidate talks Clintons and facing off against Evander Holyfield

Katie Couric
Mitt Romney Exclusive: Former GOP presidential candidate talks Clintons and facing off against Evander Holyfield

 

Watch Katie Couric’s complete, exclusive interview with Mitt Romney here.

 

By Jon Ward

Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric in an exclusive interview Wednesday that he decided not to run for president a third time for a simple reason.
 
“It just didn’t feel right,” Romney said in his first interview since deciding at the end of January not to mount another campaign. “Somehow, it just didn’t feel like this was the right time for us to step forward.”
 
He said, “I would love to be president. I just concluded I was not the best person to carry forward the Republican torch.”
 
If he had run, Romney said, he would have spent “a great deal of time taking my message to Hispanic Americans and to other minority groups in this country — African Americans, Asian Americans — and describing why it is that conservative principles are best for them and for their families.
 
“That’s something I wish I would’ve spent a lot more time doing” in 2012, he said.
 
The 68-year-old former Massachusetts governor told supporters at the time he announced he would not run again that he thought he could have won the nomination had he fought for it. And he has told advisers that he doubts any of the prospective Republican candidates will have trouble beating the expected Democratic nominee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. 









{Watch the complete interview with Mitt and Ann Romney here}

Romney, speaking with Yahoo News at his son Craig’s home in San Diego, heaped praise Wednesday on several of those Republicans — including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) — and he even had kind words for Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who had been outspoken in saying that Romney should not run.
 
“A lotta young people are very excited about Rand Paul. And of course, there’s a libertarian strain in my party, and he’s connected with a lotta folks who wanna see us take a different course as a party,” Romney said. “I mean, more power to him as he expresses his views.”
 
Romney said he does not plan to endorse anyone in the crowded Republican field, but he called Bush “a sound, effective governor” and “a very formidable and capable candidate.”
 
“And I think he’d be a very good president,” Romney said.
 
He was effusive in his praise for Walker, calling him “a man of integrity and character.”
 
“He was one that faced a recall, fought for his agenda; it was supported by the people of Wisconsin. I think a guy like that really has stood the test of a very close inspection,” Romney said. “I think he makes a very compelling case to become a nominee.”
 
And Romney said that Rubio “has really distinguished himself” on foreign policy, which may be a major issue in the coming 2016 presidential election.











On the Democratic side of the 2016 field, Romney said that the controversy over Clinton’s use of a private email address that routed through a server stored in her home was “a mess.”
 
“I mean, it’s always something with the Clintons,” he said. “They have rules which they describe before they get into something, and then they decide they don’t have to follow their own rules. And that, I think, is gonna be a real problem for her. ...

“She didn’t follow the rules and regulations of the federal government,” Romney said.
 
A bigger challenge for Clinton in 2016, said Romney, would be to explain and defend what he referred to as “the Hillary Clinton/Barack Obama foreign policy.” He faulted Clinton’s attempt to “reset” relations with Russia and the Obama administration for not reaching a status of forces agreement with Iraq that would have left a residual force of U.S. troops on the ground there.
 
“That would’ve helped dissuade the creation of ISIS,” Romney said.



 

Romney called President Obama “the Pete Carroll of foreign-policy play calls,” a reference to the Seattle Seahawks football coach, who was maligned for his decision to throw a pass during a goal line play in the final seconds of this year’s Super Bowl. The pass was intercepted, and the Seahawks lost to the New England Patriots.
 
“In Syria, we should’ve worked with moderate voices there, armed them to make sure we could topple [Syrian dictator Bashar] Assad, as opposed to have this ongoing circumstance, which has allowed ISIS to grow,” Romney said. “And then ISIS begins to grow and thrive, and we’re not ready. We’re not there to immediately respond as they come rushing into Iraq.”
 
He said, “I’m afraid you’re gonna have to see more American military involvement in order to keep ISIS from spreading even further.” He expressed hope that the bulk of ground troops fighting Islamic State forces in the Middle East would be sent from “Turkey or Saudi Arabia or others. ... But I think, as the president of the United States, you have to say that we will defeat ISIS, period. Full stop. And we will do what’s necessary for that to happen,” he said.



Romney himself has been the subject of some criticism lately from former Obama adviser David Axelrod, who wrote in his recently released book that on election night in 2012, when Romney called to concede, he made an ungracious comment about the president owing his re-election to African American voters.
 
Obama was irritated during the call, according to Axelrod, and upon hanging up, he paraphrased Romney as having said to him, “You really did a great job of getting the vote out in places like Cleveland and Milwaukee.”
 
“In other words, black people,” Obama said, according to Axelrod. “That’s what he thinks this was all about.”
 
Romney told Yahoo News that he hadn’t made any race-related insinuations during his concession call.
 
“I certainly did not,” he said. “Sometimes misunderstandings occur. ... I remember going into the room with a few of my staff people, picking up the phone and being as gracious as I could possibly be at a very difficult time, and congratulating the president on winning and congratulating him on having a good campaign and running a good campaign. I may well have said what a good job they did turning people out, because they did,” Romney said. “By the way, I don’t even know what happened in Milwaukee, so some of those quotes are obviously a misunderstanding.
 
“But I had nothing but congratulations for the president and positive feelings that I expressed to him,” he said.
 
Now that he is no longer in politics, Romney said, he will divide his time between business, philanthropy, and spending time with his wife and family.











 {See Mitt and Ann Romney with their children and gradchildren here}
 
“People in politics always say they’re spending time with their family, but in my case, it’s a big family,” he said, laughing. “We got 23 grandkids, so I get to spend a lotta time with them, and it’s extraordinarily enjoyable.”

Romney will put his fame to good use in May, when he’ll step into a boxing ring with former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield for a charity match to raise money for CharityVision, which gives medical support to blind people.
 
Romney cautioned that the event “will not be a true bout. ... I think there’ll be a lot of Democrats there paying good money to see me get beaten up,” he joked.
 
That clearly won’t happen. What’s not clear is whether Romney will strip down to a pair of boxing shorts for the match. He said Wednesday that this is his plan.
 
“You don’t go in there wearing a T-shirt, you know,” he said.
 
Romney’s wife, Ann, said that she has “already made the physical therapy appointments after the bout.”