WASHINGTON: Mitt Romney said President Barack Obama won by showering "gifts" on women, African American and Hispanic supporters, in his first published remarks since conceding last week's election.
The remarks came as Republicans have called for greater outreach to women and minorities after their unexpectedly lopsided defeat, and drew an angry response from Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, a rising star in the party.
A little over a week after the election, Romney accused Obama of following the "old playbook" by bestowing favors on key Democratic constituencies in exchange for their support.
"In each case they were very generous in what they gave to those groups," he said in a phone call with his national finance committee on Wednesday.
"With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest was a big gift."
Obama garnered 51 percent of the popular vote to Romney's 48 percent, and won decisively in the state-by-state Electoral College, where he earned 332 votes to Romney's 206.
Romney's post-mortem, reported by the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, echoed controversial remarks he made to donors at a private fundraiser, denigrating the "47 percent" of US voters whom he said pay no income tax.
Those comments in May, secretly recorded and released months later, confirmed some voters' views that the multi-millionaire former venture capitalist was an elitist who cared only about the rich.
Romney told the donors on Wednesday's conference call that Obama "made a big effort on small things," while his own campaign had been about "big issues."
Among the gifts Romney said Obama gave to his backers were "free contraceptives," which were very big with college-aged women.
The president's controversial health care reform plan was another campaign gift that helped secure the youth vote, Romney said.
Under Obama's plan, anyone 26 or younger could be part of their parents' health care plan "...and that was a big gift to young people," Romney said.
"They turned out in large numbers, a larger share in this election even than in 2008."
For Latinos, "free health care was a big plus," Romney said during the 20-minute call.
"The amnesty for children of illegals, the so-called 'Dream Act' kids, was a huge plus for that voting group," he added. He was referring to an executive order earlier this year allowing undocumented youths to temporarily remain legally in the United States.
Romney, a conservative Mormon and the former governor of left-leaning Massachusetts, won over elderly voters in the November 6 election and earned a definitive 59 percent of the white vote.
But minorities rallied around Obama, with 93 percent of African Americans, 71 percent of Hispanics and 72 percent of Asians voting for his re-election.
The dramatic imbalance -- particularly among the fast-growing Latino community -- has led many Republicans to call for greater outreach and for the party to adopt a more moderate position on immigration.
Jindal, speaking at a Republican governors conference in Las Vegas, denounced Romney's claim about Obama's election tactics. "I absolutely reject that notion."
"I think that's absolutely wrong," he was quoted as saying by CNN.
"I don't think that represents where we are as a party and where we're going as a party," he said. "That has got to be one of the most fundamental takeaways from this election."
Jindal, a US-born son of Indian immigrants who governs a staunchly conservative Southern state, is seen as a potential 2016 presidential candidate.
Romney's campaign team had predicted he would win handily in last week's vote, and numerous polls had said the election would be too close to call.
"I'm very sorry that we didn't win," he told his backers on Wednesday.
"I know that you expected to win, we expected to win. We were disappointed with the result. We hadn't anticipated it, and it was very close, but close doesn't count in this business."
Romney said he and his campaign advisers were still sorting out what their futures would hold.
"Now we're looking and saying, 'OK, what can we do going forward?'" he said.
"But frankly we're still so troubled by the past, it's hard to put together our plans for the future."