Updated Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 03:53 PM
A week after losing the presidential election to President Obama, Mitt Romney blamed his overwhelming electoral loss on what he said were big "gifts" that the president had bestowed on loyal Democratic constituencies — including young voters, African Americans and Hispanics.
In a conference call Wednesday afternoon with his national finance committee, Romney said that the president had followed the "old playbook" of wooing specific interest groups — "especially the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people," Romney explained — with targeted gifts and initiatives.
"In each case they were very generous in what they gave to those groups," Romney said.
"With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest, was a big gift," he said. "Free contraceptives were very big with young college-aged women. And then, finally, 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. They turned out in large numbers, a larger share in this election even than in 2008."
The president's health-care plan, he added, was also a useful tool in mobilizing African-American and Hispanic voters. Though Romney won the white vote with 59 percent, according to exit polls, minorities coalesced around the president in overwhelming numbers — 93 percent of blacks and 71 percent of Hispanics voted to re-elect Obama.
"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, I mean, this is huge," he said. "Likewise with Hispanic voters, free health care was a big plus. 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."
In the 20-minute call — which also featured an appearance by Neil Newhouse, the campaign's pollster; Spencer Zwick, the national finance chairman; and Mason Fink, the finance director — Romney was by turns disappointed and pragmatic, expressing his frustration that he'd failed to defeat Obama on Election Day.
"I'm very sorry that we didn't win," he said on the call. "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, ever the data-driven former consultant, offered a brief post-mortem analysis of where he and his campaign had fallen short. Last Wednesday and Thursday, he had convened informal what-went-wrong sessions in his Boston headquarters, where he and senior advisers pored over the numbers with Newhouse. And on the call, Romney also echoed a theme from the campaign trail, saying that while the Obama "made a big effort on small things," his message had been about "big issues."
"Our campaign, in contrast, was talking about big issues for the whole country — military strategy, foreign policy, a strong economy, creating jobs and so forth," he said. "And by the way, as you'll hear from Neil, our strategy worked well with many people, but for those who were given a specific gift, if you will, our strategy did not work terribly well."
|Presidential vote tally|
|173,375 of 174,047 precincts (99 percent)|
|Source: The Associated Press|
Former GOP candidate Mitt Romney