Mitt Romney is blaming his loss in the presidential election on "Obamacare" and other "gifts" he says President Barack Obama handed out to African Americans, Hispanics and other core supporters, according to news reports Wednesday.
The defeated Republican candidate told donors in a conference call that Obama targeted those demographics, along with young voters and women, through programs such as health-care reform and "amnesty" for children of illegal immigrants, according to articles posted online by the New York Times and Los Angeles Times. Both papers appeared to have listened to the call or obtained at least partial transcripts.
In explaining his overwhelming electoral college defeat last week, Romney said Obama followed what he called the "old playbook" of seeking votes from specific interest groups "especially the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people," the New York Times said. "In each case they were very generous in what they gave to those groups," he added, according to the paper.
The question of how to appeal to the nation's changing demographics is sensitive for Republicans, especially since Romney so badly lost the non-white vote to Obama, the nation's first African American president.
Two leading Republican governors and potential presidential candidates, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Scott Walker of Wisconsin, immediately denounced Romney's remarks.
"We have got to stop dividing American voters. . . . I absolutely reject that notion, that description. . . . We're fighting for 100 percent of the vote,'' Jindal said at a news conference at a Republican Governors Association meeting in Las Vegas.
A person who was on Romney's call with the donors told The Washington Post that the subject of "certain demographics" was discussed, in the sense of "how the Obama campaign messaged that group, how we messaged this group . . . how, as Republicans, we didn't build a campaign on promising things to groups of people.''
But the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not an authorized spokesman, said he could not recall if Romney or other campaign officials made the references or if the word "gifts" was used. Numerous former Romney campaign aides did not return calls and e-mails or declined to comment.
According to exit polls, Romney easily captured the white vote last week but Obama offset that, winning 93 percent of the African-American vote and 71 percent of Hispanics.
"I am very sorry that we didn't win," Romney also said on the 20-minute call. "I know that you expected to win. We expected to win. . . . It was very close, but close doesn't count in this business."
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Alice Crites contributed to this report. Tumulty reported from Las Vegas.