PARK CITY, Utah -- Mitt Romney has repeatedly said it's time for someone else to carry the Republican Party's presidential banner, and he insists that he’s not running again in 2016. But in a Friday speech for donors and supporters at a luxury mountain resort, the 2012 GOP loser sounded a lot like a candidate, declaring: "I and we will continue to fight."
"It's the failing of the White House leadership that concerns me, and that's got to change. I lost the election, we lost an election, but I and we will continue to fight," Romney declared.
The former Massachusetts governor didn't just direct his fire at the most recent Democratic nominee, harshly criticizing possible 2016 contender Hillary Clinton over the U.S. "reset" policy with Russia.
"Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday that some world leaders may not be happy when they read her new book, and then she said, "I'm looking at you, Vladimir,'" Romney said. "Puh-leeze."
He labeled President Barack Obama's foreign policy as one of "withdrawal from leadership and accommodation."
"Being most generous, it could be characterized as reaching out a hand of friendship to every nation and people, particularly to those who may have opposed our interests in the past," Romney said.
And he tied the top leaders of the Democratic Party together, saying, "the Obama-Biden-Hillary Clinton foreign policy is a monumental bust."
"It's time to stop and reflect, and reshape American foreign policy. And that's part of the discussion that we're going to have over the next couple of days," he said.
Romney's speech was the kickoff of a weekend of events at a sprawling, ritzy Deer Valley resort high in the Utah mountains. About 300 top donors, supporters and former campaign aides gathered for a weekend that includes a number of other potential 2016 presidential hopefuls, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Rep. Paul Ryan. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., spoke at a Friday morning breakfast and met privately with donors in a hotel suite at the Stein Erickson Lodge on Thursday evening.
The weekend also includes more casual events: Friday morning offered skeet shooting with Ryan or hiking with Romney; on Saturday, guests can mountain bike with Sen. Rob Portman, who was on Romney's shortlist to serve as vice president.
During his remarks, Romney also recalled some of his experiences meeting people during the campaign in 2012, echoing the standard stump speech he used to deliver on the trail.
And he also discussed -- in more detail than ever before -- the White House meeting with Obama after all the votes were counted and he had lost.
"At one point, I said, 'Mr. President, would you mind if I offered my suggestions,'" Romney explained, deviating from his prepared remarks. The president said he wouldn't mind. "And so I said, 'look, if I had the chance to be president, I would ask myself what is it that has led America to become the most powerful nation…what is it that's led America to lead the world?"
And one point, he slipped into present tense as he described the long-over 2012 election: "Now I've come away from this campaign, more optimistic about America."
First published June 13 2014, 9:38 AM