In first interview since election, Romney tries to explain defeat

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WASHINGTON -- One hundred seventeen days later, Mitt Romney still isn't over it.

Making his first public comments since losing last November's presidential election, Mr. Romney appeared mystified still that the country didn't see things his way. He went on the attack against President Barack Obama during a wide-ranging interview on "Fox News Sunday," as if the Republican hadn't lost a beat since giving his last stump speech.

Explaining the defeat, Mr. Romney and his wife spread around the blame -- Mitt to Mr. Obama winning over so many blacks and Hispanics by enacting universal health care, Ann to news media that she believed unfairly caricatured her husband. Yet although Mr. Romney said "you rehearse all the mistakes that you made," he mostly did not dwell on his own failings as a candidate.

Mr. Romney insisted he is getting on with his life -- Fox showed him pushing some grandkids on a swing set and cradling his youngest in his arms ("No. 19 and No. 20," he called the newborn twins) -- but he revealed flashes of pain. For him, the White House forever will remain an unfulfilled destiny.

"I look at what's happening right now, I wish I were there," Mr. Romney said. "It kills me not to be there, not to be in the White House doing what needs to be done."

Up until Election Day, the Romneys said, they thought they would win. "We were a little blindsided," Ms. Romney told Fox anchor Chris Wallace. She seemed more heartbroken than her husband, saying she has cried since he lost on Nov. 6.

The transition from presidential nominee -- life in the intoxicating and never-fading spotlight, with a minute-by-minute schedule and bevies of aides, reporters and Secret Service agents surrounding you -- to campaign has-been is always difficult. Just ask Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Secretary of State John Kerry.

But unlike Mr. McCain and Mr. Kerry, who continued distinguished Senate careers after their failed White House bids in 2008 and 2004 respectively, Mr. Romney had no job to return to. The former Massachusetts governor tended his wounds at his San Diego beach house, largely in seclusion, making up for lost time with his family and friends.

Mr. Romney began easing back onto the public stage with Sunday's interview. He is scheduled to give his first speech since the election at the Conservative Political Action Conference next week.

In the Fox interview, Mr. Romney was not shy about critiquing Mr. Obama's handling of the nation's fiscal crises -- continuing the fights that shaped the 2012 campaign.

The hardest part about losing, Mr. Romney said, has been watching "this golden moment just slip away with politics." He accused Mr. Obama of using automatic federal spending cuts known as the sequester to score political points.

"No one can think that that's been a success for the president," Mr. Romney said. "He didn't think the sequester would happen. It is happening. 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 and blaming and pointing."

Ms. Romney said, "I totally believe at this moment, if Mitt were there in the office, that we would not be facing sequestration right now."

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