Mitt Romney Often Wonders Why He Stayed Out of 2016 Presidential Race

"I ask myself that a lot," he said.

ByABC News
October 26, 2016, 5:13 PM

— -- Mitt Romney today expressed disappointment in the state of the presidential race, joking that he often asks himself why he stayed out of the 2016 bid for the White House.

"I get asked on a regular basis, 'Boy, why aren't you running this year?' I ask myself that a lot too. But I did that once," Romney said.

He made self-deprecating jokes about his loss to President Barack Obama in 2012, borrowing a line from Democrat Walter Mondale, who lost to Ronald Reagan in the 1984 presidential election: "All my life I wanted to run for president in the worst way, and that's what I did."

He laughed about how much fun he had running in the 2012 race, encouraging the audience at an event hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, "If you get the chance to run for president, do it."

Romney also assailed both candidates for failing to pay attention to policy issues affecting Americans.

"I've watched the presidential debates and looked at the give and take," he said, adding that "there's been almost no discussion" of policies, such as the growth of entitlement programs, income inequality and the national debt.

Romney avoided criticizing Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton by name.

Trump has met Romney's criticism this cycle with a blistering critique of his own, accusing the former Massachusetts governor of "choking" in his contest against Obama.

The question now is whether Trump will lose by a bigger margin to Clinton than Romney did to Obama in 2012 — as recent polls suggest.

One of the more intriguing questions left in the presidential campaign is whether Clinton or third-party candidate Evan McMullin will win Utah, which was home to Romney for years and is usually a reliable Republican stronghold.

A candidate not on the Republican or Democratic ticket hasn't won a state in a presidential election since segregationist George Wallace did in 1968.

Romney declined to comment on the state of the race in Utah and, pressed by reporters after the event, wouldn't say who will get his vote.

He focused most of his remarks at the event on what he sees as the sad state of the federal government when it comes to addressing issues.

Along with highlighting the lack of discussion of income inequality and the state of programs like Medicare and Social Security, Romney brought up the threat posed by ISIS and other terrorist groups at a time when the government continues to shrink its military footprint.

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