A reflective Mitt Romney today blamed his loss in the presidential election last November to his inability to connect with minorities, the former Republican nominee admitting to Fox News' Chris Wallace that it still "kills him" not to be in Washington.
"We did very well with the majority population but not with the minority populations and that was a real failing, that was a mistake," said Romney, when asked why he believes he lost the White House last fall.
"We didn't do as good a job as connecting with that audience as we should have," he added.
Romney, joined by his wife Ann for portions of the wide-ranging interview that aired this morning on "Fox News Sunday," has spent most of the four months since Election Day out of the public eye, tucked away in his California home.
In this interview, his first since losing to President Obama, the former Massachusetts governor who received just 47 percent to the president's 51 percent of the vote, spoke candidly about his disappointment on election night.
Romney said it was a "slow recognition" that he'd lost the campaign, but when Florida was reported to be a close race - a state his campaign thought they'd win easily - he began to realize his odds of winning were waning.
"We were convinced we would win," Romney said. "My heart said we were going to win.
"It's hard, it's emotional," he said. "There was such passion in the people who were helping us, I just felt we'd really let them down."
Ann Romney added that she cried on election night, and though she described herself as being "mostly over" the loss, she confessed that she still cries.
"I mourn the fact that he's not [in the White House]," she said. "I totally believe if Mitt were there in the office we would not be facing sequestration."
Romney, who taped the interview in the San Diego home of his youngest son Craig earlier in the week, said bluntly, "I still care," when asked what life is like watching business in Washington go on without him.
"I wish I were there," he said. "It kills me to not be there, to not be in the White House doing what needs to be done."
Romney said he does not see the "kind of leadership" that he believes the country needs and he thinks the current financial crisis is a "huge opportunity."
"The hardest thing about losing is watching this critical moment, this golden moment, just slip away with politics," he said, referring to the debate over sequestration.
"Come on guys," Romney said, directing his remarks to those in office. "Focus on getting America through a difficult time and on the track to remain the most powerful and strong nation in the history of the earth and put people back to work."
As for Romney's infamous "47 percent" comments, in which the presidential candidate was surreptitiously filmed at a fundraiser essentially writing off a large portion of Americans as "completely wrong," the former nominee said his remarks undoubtedly contributed to the failure of his campaign.
"It's not what I meant. I didn't express myself as I wished I would have," he said. "You know when you speak in private you don't spend as much time thinking about how something could be twisted and distorted and could come out wrong and be used.
"It was very harmful," he said. "There's no question that it hurt and did damage to my campaign."
And about that embrace between New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie - considered to be one of Romney's most powerful backers during the election - and Obama just a week before Election Day during a tour of Hurricane Sandy damage?
"I don't think that's why the president won the election," Romney said, explaining that he does not blame Christie for his loss.
"I'm not going to blame Chris," he said. "I lost my election because of my campaign, not because of what anybody else did."
As for what's next for the Romneys, both told Wallace that they're enjoying spending time with at least one of their 20 grandchildren every day. They've started a foundation, The Romney Foundation for Children, that will serve to help poor children, and Romney said he hopes to still have some role in the Republican party, but notes that nobody wants to - or should want to - listen to a losing candidate.
"As the guy who lost the election, I'm not in a position to tell everyone else how to win," he said. "I don't have the credibility to do that anyway, but I still care."
Romney is slated to deliver his first public address March 15 in Washington D.C. during the Conservative Political Action Conference.
"I'm not going to disappear," Romney said. "But I care about America I care about people who can't find jobs."