Admitting he's still stinging from his loss last November, former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Sunday ended four months of postelection silence, accusing President Obama of failing to show "real leadership" in a political standoff over automatic budget cuts.
In an interview on "Fox News Sunday," Romney accused Obama of staging campaign rallies to score political points instead of working to bring Republicans and Democrats together to avert $85 billion in automatic cuts that kicked in Friday.
Romney accused Obama of manipulating the sequester to inflict pain on the country that he could then blamed on Republicans.
"He's the only one that can say to his own party, 'Look, you guys, I need you on this,' and get some Republicans aside and say ... 'we don't have to have these gridlock settings, one after the other.' "
The president must "put aside political victories and start fighting for national victories," he said.
"The hardest thing about losing is watching this critical moment, this golden moment just slip away with politics," Romney said. "It kills me not to be there."
Romney has been a virtual recluse since losing the Nov. 6 election to Obama 51 percent to 47 percent. But there are signs the former Massachusetts governor may be staging a comeback, though he said Sunday he has no plans to run for office again. Romney is slated to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington in mid-March.
University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato told The Washington Examiner that Romney could eventually be afforded the status of senior statesman in the GOP, but only to a certain degree.
"He lost what most Republicans considered a winnable race," Sabato said. "The GOP base was never emotionally invested or attached to him, and certainly isn't now."
Romney told "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace he realizes he won't be leading the Republican Party, "but I want to have influence on getting our party into a position where we can be successful in solving the problems the country has."
He added, "I'm not going to disappear."
Romney acknowledged Obama's campaign "did a number of things very effectively," but he refused to walk back postelection comments to his donors that the president won because he offered free services, such as health care.
"The weakness that our campaign had and that I had is we weren't effective in taking my message primarily to minority voters, to Hispanic-Americans, African-Americans, other minorities," Romney said.
When asked about a provision in the bipartisan immigration reform plan in Congress that would provide a path to citizenship for illegal aliens, Romney said he opposes it but knows it will be a compromise plan.
"I understand others have different positions," Romney said. "Others in my party do."
Romney appeared in the interview with his wife, Ann, and the couple told Wallace they truly believed on Election Day that they would win. Romney said doubts did not creep in until he saw how close the race was in Florida, a state he expected to win.
Once the Ohio results rolled in later in the night showing Obama in the lead, Romney said, it became clear he had lost.
"It was that crushing disappointment," Ann Romney said. "Not for us. Our lives are going to be fine. It's for the country."