Skip to Content

Mitt Romney says 'jinxing' didn't cost him White House as Donald Trump claims

SALT LAKE CITY — Mitt Romney doesn't think the time spent planning his potential transition to the White House cost him the presidency in 2012 as President Donald Trump suggests in a controversial new book about his administration.

"There were reasons for my loss but jinxing is not high among them," Romney told the Deseret News on Wednesday. "I'm afraid my own mistakes were responsible for my loss, not the effect of black magic."

In Bob Woodward's newly released book, "Fear," candidate Trump is described as complaining that his transition team was "stealing" from his campaign and "jinxing" his chance to win in 2016.

Woodward writes that Trump told aides Romney didn't beat President Barack Obama because he focused too much on the transition and not enough on the campaign.

"That's why he lost," Trump said, according to the book.

Romney, who said he has only read excerpts of Woodward's book so far, is running in Utah to replace retiring fellow Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch. He faces Democratic Salt Lake County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson.

The 2012 GOP presidential nominee defended his own transition effort headed by former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt.

"I did not know that (Trump) attributes our transition team to be one of our difficulties," Romney said. "The transition team was one of the best parts of our effort."

Romney said he anticipated that he would be able to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. He said he planned to lay out a series of regulatory changes, including the needed legislation, in the first 100 days of his presidency.

"I think planning made us more effective in recognizing that what I was saying was not merely talk and politics but would actually need to be implemented," he said.

Leavitt told the Deseret News that during the campaign, Romney spent less than an hour a week planning for his potential presidency, "essentially no time on the transition" and its 138-page blueprint.

Preparing for a Romney administration "was a full-time job for me and many others," he said. The 2012 election "was the first time there was a congressionally established transition process. Romney's team was ready to govern."

Woodward's book and a recent anonymous New York Times op-ed by a senior Trump administration official paints a White House in disarray as those around the president attempt to head off his impulsive behavior.

Romney said if someone is as opposed to the president's agenda as the anonymous op-ed writer, he or she should have resigned instead of speaking from inside the administration.

"I don't think it's the job of a person in an administration to oppose the policies and agendas of the person who's elected through a democratic process," he said.

Wilson said last week she doesn't think the op-ed is made up. She said there's enough evidence from Trump's "unfiltered" tweets and "alarming" and "derogatory" statements to show that.

"It's clear to me it's a true account of what's happening," she said.

Romney said it's hard separate fact from fiction among the assertions made about the Trump administration. He said history would eventually determine Trump's effectiveness as a leader.

But he said the president can claim a list of accomplishments, including a "booking" economy, tax and regulatory reform, low unemployment, and in Utah, the shrinking of the Bear Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.

Romney said any talk of impeaching Trump is premature.

"I don't think that it's productive to talk about impeachment. It's way too speculative," he said.

Wilson told the Deseret News and KSL editorial boards Monday that if there are legal grounds for it, she "will support moving toward impeachment."

"If the (special counsel Robert) Mueller report comes out with a grounds toward impeachment, I think we are in such chaos as a nation, we cannot heal until he's gone," she said.

Romney said he has full confidence in Mueller's investigation but he's not going to speculate on the results. He said he takes Mueller at his word that Trump is not a target.

But Romney said he wasn't ready to "punditize" about whether Trump is helping or hurting Republican candidates around the country. He said the president's approach is to aggressively rally and energize GOP voters.

That apparently won't be happening in Utah, at least on Romney's behalf.

"If he comes here to help me, then my campaign is facing some real challenges. That would mean I'm in a neck-and-neck race. If that's the case, why, my campaign would be facing challenges," Romney said.

Polls show Romney, one of the state's most popular politicians, has a sizeable lead over Wilson.

Wilson told the editorial boards, "I'm just going to tell you who I am and what I am. Time will tell if it's enough this cycle."

Romney, she said, is the "same ol' and I'm seeing more and more and of that on this campaign. I'm frankly more and more frustrated by his lack of engagement and his sort of high-level answer to stuff. We need to get in the weeds."