WASHINGTON: Mitt Romney, in his first remarks since an unexpectedly lopsided election loss to Barack Obama, blamed his defeat Wednesday on “gifts” showered by the president on his female, African-American and Hispanic supporters.
A little more than a week after the election, Romney in a phone call with his national finance committee accused Obama of following the “old playbook” by bestowing favors on key Democratic constituencies in exchange for their support at the ballot box.
“In each case they were very generous in what they gave to those groups,” said the defeated Republican presidential nominee, adding that young voters were also among the beneficiaries of Obama's largesse.
“With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest was a big gift,” Romney said.
Obama garnered 51 per cent of the popular vote, while Romney got 48 per cent.
The president's win was more decisive in the Electoral College, where he earned 332 votes against Romney's 206.
Romney's remarks, reported by the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, echoed controversial remarks made to donors at a private fundraiser, denigrating the “47 per cent” of US voters who he said failed to pay income tax.
Those comments in May, captured surreptitiously on video, confirmed some voters' views that Romney was an elitist who cared only about the rich.
He told the donors on Wednesday's conference call that Obama “made a big effort on small things,” while his own campaign had been about “big issues.”
Among the goodies Romney said Obama gave to his backers were “free contraceptives,” which were very big with young college-aged women.
The president's controversial health care reform plan was another campaign plum that helped secure the youth vote, Romney said.
“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,” Romney told his backers.
“They turned out in large numbers, a larger share in this election even than in 2008,” he said.
The conservative Mormon nominee locked up the elderly voters in the Nov 6 election, and earned a definitive 59 per cent of the white vote.
But in addition to young voters, minorities rallied around Obama, with 93 per cent of African Americans, 71 per cent of Hispanics and 72 per cent of Asians casting a ballot for the president.
Romney said the perquisites on offer were particularly tempting to low-income voters.
“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,” Romney said. “I mean, this is huge.”
The former Massachusetts governor -- whose landmark achievement while he led the state was a health reform program after which Obama patterned his own national health initiative -- depicted the president's medical care plan as a campaign bonbon his campaign couldn't compete with.
For Latinos' “free health care was a big plus,” Romney said during the 20-minute call.
“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,” he said, referring to a program introduced by the president this year allowing some undocumented youths to temporarily remain legally in the United States.
Romney seemed still rueful after last Tuesday's vote, which his own campaign team had predicted he would win handily, and which numerous polls leading into the election said was too close to call.
“I'm very sorry that we didn't win,” he said.
“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.”
Romney, who apparently had been convinced that he would be moving into the White House, said he and his campaign advisers were still sorting out what their futures would hold.
“So now we're looking and saying, 'OK, what can we do going forward?'” he said.
“But frankly we're still so troubled by the past, it's hard to put together our plans for the future,” the defeated candidate said.