Before Taking Office, Mitt Romney Takes On Trump

Before even taking office, Mitt Romney is taking on the President. It's a good sign, but we'll see what it leads to.

Senator-Elect Mitt Romney, who will be sworn in by Vice-President Pence Thursday afternoon, came out swinging against the President in a possible sign of the role he sees himself taking in the Republican Party going forward:

Mitt Romney, the incoming senator from Utah and former Republican presidential nominee, revived his rivalry with President Trump on Tuesday with an op-ed essay in The Washington Post in which he said Mr. Trump “has not risen to the mantle of the office.”

Days before joining a Republican-controlled Senate, and as the 2020 presidential race begins to take form, Mr. Romney issued a pointed critique of the president’s character.

“With the nation so divided, resentful and angry, presidential leadership in qualities of character is indispensable,” he wrote ahead of his swearing-in on Thursday. “And it is in this province where the incumbent’s shortfall has been most glaring.”

The timing and tone of the piece set off widespread speculation online, with some suggesting that Mr. Romney aimed to position himself as “the new Jeff Flake,” the departing Republican senator from Arizona who publicly tangled with Mr. Trump.

Or, others asked, was Mr. Romney, a two-time presidential hopeful, signaling he might try to challenge the president in the 2020 Republican primary election?

Brad Parscale, the campaign manager for Mr. Trump’s 2020 re-election bid, quickly fired back at Mr. Romney, saying in a tweet Tuesday night that Mr. Trump had “saved” the country while the senator-elect could not.

“Jealousy is a drink best served warm and Romney just proved it,” he said. “So sad.”

Mr. Romney and Mr. Trump have long had a complicated political relationship.

Mr. Trump has called Mr. Romney “irrelevant” and once bragged that he was a more successful businessman. “I mean, my net worth is many, many, many times Mitt Romney,” he said in 2011.

When Mr. Trump was running for president in 2016, Mr. Romney called him a “phony” and a “fraud.” In 2017 he excoriated the president after the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., for causing “racists to rejoice” and “minorities to weep.”

But Mr. Trump backed Mr. Romney’s 2012 run for president, an endorsement that the nominee said meant a “great deal.”

The two tried to play nice during an awkward dinner together in late 2016, when it was thought Mr. Romney could be a candidate for secretary of state in the Trump administration. Last year, Mr. Trump supported Mr. Romney’s campaign to become Utah’s junior senator — and Mr. Romney thanked him for the endorsement.

Mr. Romney’s criticism at the outset of the new session of Congress was a blunt message to Mr. Trump that one of his most outspoken Republican critics from the 2016 campaign would soon have a high-profile platform in Washington.

And while Mr. Romney has largely refrained from the sort of blistering attacks he made against Mr. Trump two years ago, the broadside in The Post suggested that Utah’s soon-to-be senator might be open to a third presidential campaign.

Indeed, parts of the essay sounded like the makings of a primary challenge against Mr. Trump from Mr. Romney.

Not surprisingly the President has responded via Twitter:

President Trump fired back at incoming Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Wednesday, urging him to be a “TEAM player” hours after the publication of a scathing op-ed in which Romney said Trump has not risen to the job.

“Would much prefer that Mitt focus on Border Security and so many other things where he can be helpful,” Trump said in a tweet. “I won big, and he didn’t. He should be happy for all Republicans. Be a TEAM player & WIN!”

Trump also questioned whether Romney, who lost the 2012 presidential election, would now seek to play a similar role as the retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), among the few GOP lawmakers who have frequently criticized Trump’s actions.

“Question will be, is he a Flake?” Trump said of Romney. “I hope not.”\

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1080447092882112512

Trump’s comments followed the publication of an op-ed penned by Romney in advance of his swearing-in Thursday as Utah’s junior senator.

From the Op-Ed itself:

The Trump presidency made a deep descent in December. The departures of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, the appointment of senior persons of lesser experience, the abandonment of allies who fight beside us, and the president’s thoughtless claim that America has long been a “sucker” in world affairs all defined his presidency down.

It is well known that Donald Trump was not my choice for the Republican presidential nomination. After he became the nominee, I hoped his campaign would refrain from resentment and name-calling. It did not. When he won the election, I hoped he would rise to the occasion. His early appointments of Rex Tillerson, Jeff Sessions, Nikki Haley, Gary Cohn, H.R. McMaster, Kelly and Mattis were encouraging. But, on balance, his conduct over the past two years, particularly his actions this month, is evidence that the president has not risen to the mantle of the office.

It is not that all of the president’s policies have been misguided. He was right to align U.S. corporate taxes with those of global competitors, to strip out excessive regulations, to crack down on China’s unfair trade practices, to reform criminal justice and to appoint conservative judges. These are policies mainstream Republicans have promoted for years. But policies and appointments are only a part of a presidency.

To a great degree, a presidency shapes the public character of the nation. A president should unite us and inspire us to follow “our better angels.” A president should demonstrate the essential qualities of honesty and integrity, and elevate the national discourse with comity and mutual respect. As a nation, we have been blessed with presidents who have called on the greatness of the American spirit. With the nation so divided, resentful and angry, presidential leadership in qualities of character is indispensable. And it is in this province where the incumbent’s shortfall has been most glaring.

The world is also watching. America has long been looked to for leadership. Our economic and military strength was part of that, of course, but our enduring commitment to principled conduct in foreign relations, and to the rights of all people to freedom and equal justice, was even more esteemed. Trump’s words and actions have caused dismay around the world. In a 2016 Pew Research Center poll, 84 percent of people in Germany, Britain, France, Canada and Sweden believed the American president would “do the right thing in world affairs.” One year later, that number had fallen to 16 percent.

Over the first two years of Donald Trump’s Presidency, there was virtually no criticism of the President from any corner of the Republican Party, whether it concerned the President’s rhetoric, his personal behavior and his attacks on everything from the news media to real and perceived political adversaries and, of course, the Mueller investigation. Other than people such as John McCain, Jeff Flake, and Bob Corker, all of whom in some sense had nothing to lose, there has been virtually no criticism of this President from any Republican on Capitol Hill notwithstanding the fact that reporters continually report that, off the record, many of these same Republicans are rolling their eyes and increasingly uncomfortable with the direction the President has been heading. For most of these Republicans, of course, the reason for their silence is the fact that they worry more about potential primary challenges from the right and attacks from the President than they do about what the President is doing to the country, something which for which they will be judged at some point in the future.

In any case, even though he will become a junior Senator tomorrow, Romney finds himself in much the same position that McCain, Flake, and Corker were last year and thus probably feels more free in speaking out against Trump when he deems it necessary. While President Trump won Utah in 2016, he did so by the smallest vote margin since Bob Dole in 1996 and, for the first time since George H.W. Bush in 1992, failed to get above 50% of the vote even though he won the state. Romney, on the other hand, won the state by overwhelming margins both in the Republican primaries in 2008 and 2012 and in the 2012 General Election. Last November, he overwhelmingly won the Republican Primary and the General Election based mostly on his own personal popularity in the state rather than any assistance from the President. Additionally, Romney enters the Senate at what is essentially the end of his political career rather than the beginning. He doesn’t need this job, and he doesn’t need the support of the President or the Trumpian wing of the Republican Party, which is not particularly strong in Utah. Romney has his own base in Utah, he doesn’t have to worry about re-election until 2024, and is essentially free to decide for himself if he’s going to run for re-election at that point or not. Neither the President nor the Senate Leadership has much leverage over him, and that’s what makes his position somewhat unique, and certainly unique among the incoming class of new Senators.

Romney goes on to speak somewhat about how he expects to conduct himself in Trump’s Washington and Trump’s Republican Party:

I look forward to working on these priorities with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other senators.

Furthermore, I will act as I would with any president, in or out of my party: I will support policies that I believe are in the best interest of the country and my state, and oppose those that are not. I do not intend to comment on every tweet or fault. But I will speak out against significant statements or actions that are divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest or destructive to democratic institutions.

I remain optimistic about our future. In an innovation age, Americans excel. More importantly, noble instincts live in the hearts of Americans. The people of this great land will eschew the politics of anger and fear if they are summoned to the responsibility by leaders in homes, in churches, in schools, in businesses, in government — who raise our sights and respect the dignity of every child of God — the ideal that is the essence of America.

mney’s votes will be conventionally Republican. He is, after all, a Republican elected from a Republican state. If you’re expecting him to vote with the Democrats on key issues, you’re not being realistic.

What Romney seems to be saying here is that nobody should expect him to oppose every initiative that the President and the Republican Party advance, nor should they expect him to block every measure that the President supports until he extracts a price in return. For one thing, his power in that regard will be somewhat more limited in that regard than it was for former Senators McCain, Corker, and Flake due to the fact that the Republican majority will be somewhat larger going forward. Before the midterms, the 51-49 majority that the GOP had after Doug Jones defeated Roy Moore in Alabama meant that even a single Senator speaking out or threatening to vote against a Presidential initiative or nominee could mean its defeat. Now, the GOP has a somewhat stronger 53-47 majority that means that Senator Majority Leader McConnell can afford to lose as many as three Republican votes and still be assured of passage of whatever he seeks to get passed.

For the most part, I expect Romney will vote as a conservative Republican from a conservative state. Expecting otherwise, which seems to be at the base of some of the skepticism and criticism that I am seeing from some quarters on social media, is to fail to understand reality. To that extent, those who seem to expect that the only acceptable opposition to Trump is to vote like a Democrat is essentially discounting the possibility of a Republican who can both speak out against the President and vote consistent with their own principles. Utah didn’t elect a Democrat, they elected an ostensibly conservative Republican, and that’s what I expect Romney will be, though. At the same time, though, this Op-Ed seems to suggest that he also has the potential to be the kind of Republican that other members of his party can rally behind in opposition to the antics of an increasingly unhinged President. The importance of that cannot be understated.

This is just an opening shot, of course, and we don’t really know what kind of Senator Romney will be or how critical of the President he will actually become. For some, of course, whatever Romney won’t be good enough because he’s still likely to vote the same as his fellow Republicans. To that, I would just add two thoughts. First, for the past two years, if not longer, pundits and Democrats alike have complained that Republicans don’t speak out against the President’s un-Presidential actions, statements. Now when one does, they are inevitably likely to say that it’s not good enough. Utah is a conservative Republican state that elected a conservative, Republican Senator. People expecting him to vote like a Democrat are not being realistic. Second, as I noted, Romney is a conservative elected to represent a conservative state. Expecting him to vote against that position because of Trump is to expect the completely unrealistic.

It’s possible, of course, that Romney will end up being a disappointment. He could end up just being a rubber-stamp for the GOP like his fellow Republican Senators. On the other hand, this Op-Ed could be a signal that he will become something of a rallying point for Republicans who have been reluctant to speak, and when necessary or appropriate act, against the President and his behavior. Given the fact that so many of the President’s critics have spent the better part of the past two years looking for just that kind of Republican it seems short-sighted and unrealistic to now turn around and say it’s not good enough. So welcome (back?) to the #NeverTrumpers Senator, let’s see what becomes of it.

 

FILED UNDER: Congress, Donald Trump, Politicians, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Hal_10000 says:

    Romney is an unfortunate position in that he will be demonized by the Trumpists for any opposition to Trump and demonized by the press/Democrats anytime he votes with him, even on standard-issue Republican issues. It will be interesting to see how he takes to that role. I hope that this means the GOP will show some spine. But that’s probably a fool’s hope.

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  2. Romney is an unfortunate position in that he will be demonized by the Trumpists for any opposition to Trump and demonized by the press/Democrats anytime he votes with him, even on standard-issue Republican issues.

    Indeed, it’s all rather frustrating. And given this “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” approach to politics is probably why more Republicans just try to deal with the Trump years by keeping their heads down and not commenting on Trump’s idiocy.

  3. Franklin says:

    It’s a meaningless statistic, but it is still amusing that Romney got a higher percentage of the ‘popular’ vote than Trump did.

  4. Kathy says:

    The enemy of your enemy is not necessarily your friend, but they are in a position to be a convenient ally.

  5. dmichael says:

    From Richard Yeselson: “Romney thing is just this: he’s ostentatiously shorting Trump, ie, betting he is impeached/convicted or forced to resign. And reminding party he would do all the usual stuff the donors and activists want without the drama. And figuring that’s how he wins nomination in ‘20.”

  6. Blue Galangal says:

    @dmichael: See: Kasich, John.

  7. CSK says:

    Apparently Ronna Romney McDaniel has sided with Trump and not Uncle Mitt in this matter.

  8. dmichael says:

    Or, how about Jeet Heer: “Yes, Romney will combine the strength of Flake, Corker, Sasse and his own renown into one powerful package. Or, in math terms: 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 = 0”

  9. Scott F. says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    It would only be rather frustrating if “being demonized by the Trumpists” bore on your conscience in a negative way. But, considering the unhallowed ground the Trumpists have staked out to remain in support of Trump despite the lies and corruption, it seems to me a conservative person of principle could easily emotionally bear being “damned” by Trump, his sycophants and his enablers.

    That it would be politically difficult is the kind of the reason we tend to admire politicians who stand on principle and excoriate those who don’t, is it not?

  10. al Ameda says:

    What’s the over/under on the number of times Mitt
    will oppose Trump on anything meaningful? I put it at +/- 1.

    Until further notice, Mitt is to be considered another Jeff Flake or Rob Corker – he’ll be quoted here and there as being disdainful of Trump’s ‘character’, but will go with what Mitch wants.

  11. James Pearce says:

    Other than people such as John McCain, Jeff Flake, and Bob Corker, all of whom in some sense had nothing to lose, there has been virtually no criticism of this President from any Republican on Capitol Hill notwithstanding the fact that reporters continually report that, off the record, many of these same Republicans are rolling their eyes and increasingly uncomfortable with the direction the President has been heading.

    After McCain, Flake, and Corker, Romney has to know he’s going to be all alone on this one, even though all the Senators across the aisle agree with him.

    He should have allies, and it’s a shame he doens’t.

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  12. @Scott F.:

    Who’s to say it’s a matter of politics? Is it so hard to believe that Romney, who has been a largely conservative Republican for most of his life, would support conventional conservative Republican ideas?

  13. Barry says:

    @James Pearce: “After McCain, Flake, and Corker, Romney has to know he’s going to be all alone on this one, even though all the Senators across the aisle agree with him.

    He should have allies, and it’s a shame he doens’t.”

    You mean the GOP Senators who talked big smack, and then voted with Trump?
    As for allies, he will have them in the Democratic Caucus, if and when he does anything to merit them.

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  14. Stormy Dragon says:

    I’m sure Romney will spend the next two years being consistently very concerned as he votes in lock step with the administration.

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  15. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Banned McBannederson:

    Jenos/Whizbang,

    Isn’t this the twentieth or so profile that’s been banned. Do you honestly have so few places in your life that welcome your drivel that you have to come back to a site which has repeatedly shown you the door?

  16. charon says:

    Willard has a secure base, in Utah Romney is royalty. Trump is pretty unpopular with the Mormons, so no risk to speaking out.

    This could be about going after Mitch McConnell’s gig, giving McConnell’s committed behavior as Trump’s little lapdog (latest example Mitch supporting Trump in the shutdown standoff).

  17. charon says:

    If Trump goes down, as I think somewhere from likely to probable, the GOP will split into factions. Mitt wants to be a big shot in the non-Trumpist faction.

  18. Gustopher says:

    Let’s see how he votes before we praise him, shall we? Mittens has a tendency to pander to every man, woman and child, and would dress up like a pirate if he thought it would help him become President some day.

    I don’t think he has to — or should be expected to — vote against Republican goals like giving tax breaks to the wealthy or screwing over little people. Will he even stand up to Donald Trump on basic good governance issues?

    There’s lots of incompetence and fraud in this administration. Plenty of opportunities to make some real change, and show himself to be actually opposing Trump without opposing any policies even.

    I suspect he won’t even do that, but I would like to be surprised.

  19. Teve says:

    @charon: except the problem there is that the faction of Republicans who aren’t angry old racist white dumbasses is not very large.

  20. Franklin says:

    @Neil Hudelson: You gotta admit he’s a maverick, a rebel, maybe even a freedom fighter. After all, he’s posting on a blog where he’s not supposed to!!!

  21. OzarkHillbilly says:

    “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
    That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
    And then is heard no more. It is a tale
    Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
    Signifying nothing.”

  22. Kylopod says:

    It’s important to remember that Romney’s 2012 campaign (in which he sucked up heavily to Trump) was in many ways a precursor to Trump’s. He set a record for brazen and shameless lying, from attacking Obama for Medicare cuts that he himself advocated to falsely claiming his tax-cut plan was only for the middle class. He was also an immigration hardliner (remember “self-deportation”?), one of the few issues on which he’s been fairly consistent throughout his career.

    Unfortunately, pundits who can’t look past superficiality and optics find it hard to believe there could be any similarities between the two. Romney has never been a crude braggart, he seems to have a solid personal life, he always puts on an air of dignity, and his lies are subtle and devious rather than the cartoonish Trumpian variety of boldly declaring that black is white and up is down and calling anyone who disagrees fake news.

    This is one of the problems I have with talking about Trump purely as something unique in American politics; the difference between him and earlier Republicans has often been more a matter of degree than kind, yet there is a reluctance to acknowledge this fact in respectable circles. Trump fools his mob of adoring fans who believe anything he says, but few others; the more underhanded deception of Romney has maintained hold over far more people for a lot longer.

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  23. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Gustopher:

    Will he even stand up to Donald Trump on basic good governance issues?

    Will he vote against the wall? BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA….

    @Kylopod: Unfortunately, pundits who can’t look past Romney’s well coiffed silvered temples and lantern jaw impression of a wind vane…

  24. charon says:

    @Teve:

    the faction of Republicans who aren’t angry old racist white dumbasses is not very large.

    Corporations are people too, my friend. Donors, plutocrats? Follow the money, something a lot of GOP pols treasure deeply.

  25. Scott F. says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I wouldn’t find it at all hard to believe that Romney would support conventional Republicans ideas. In fact, I would hope he would and accept that the opposition party would “damn” him for doing so.

    I’m just saying this isn’t a “damned if you do/don’t” scenario, because Trumpism, and to be perfectly clear all current Republican politics in the thrall of Trump, DOES NOT EQUAL “conventional conservative Republican ideas.”

    I think you, James and Steven have all written about the direction of the GOP away from what you see as conventional conversatism, a trend I’d say started with Reagan and that has been fully embraced since Gingrich. What Romney (and Flake, Corker, and Sasse) want to do is create space between Trump and today’s GOP, but no amount of whining about tone and civility is going to do that. There needs to be actions taken that reject BOTH Trump and the non-conventional, non-conservative Republican politics of which Trump is the full embodiment.

    A case in point:
    For the sake of argument, let’s just say “The Wall” is not a conventional, conservative Republican idea, but rather the red meat to the GOP’s xenophobic base that it is. With a quick phone call to Pelosi to make arrangements, an affirmative vote could be taken in the House tomorrow on the Senate resolution that was passed unanimously in the Senate just a couple of weeks ago. If it was conventional, conservative principle driving the party, Trump’s veto would be overridden and 800,000 federal employees would be back to work by the weekend.

    It not as hard or honorable as Romney et al would have us believe to put country and principles (including conservative principles) above party and politics. Trump has Republicans under his control, because they are willing and complicit.

  26. charon says:

    @Teve:

    There are three principal power centers in the GOP – racists, evangelical Christians and big money. Trump/Trumpism only have two of the three, and the money faction ain’t chopped liver.

  27. MarkedMan says:

    First, Kudos to Mitt for speaking out in this way. There are a number of tacks he could have taken but this one entails some risks.

    Second, this is interesting in another way. All his life, Romney has paid close attention to which way the political wind is blowing. He is a human wind sock. It says something about Trump that someone like Romney feels the wind is blowing away from Trump.

  28. Kathy says:

    @Kylopod:

    There are differences beyond the surface ones. For one thing, I doubt Romney would have promised a wall, or that he’d have separated families at the border, or that he’d have withdrawn from the TPP, or trashed NAFTA only to do minor upgrades to it, or trashed NATO, or sucked up to Putin, Kim and even tin-pot dictators like Duterte, or attacked the press.

    A convenient ally is an ally of convenience, like the USSR was to the US and Britain in WWII. Roosevelt and Churchill knew what Stalin was, they knew Stalin had helped Hitler take Poland, too. They allied anyway, because it helped defeat the Nazis.

    So Romney would be awful in policy? Of course. But so what? Trump is even worse. If Romney can be used to bring Trump down, he should be so used.

    A better question, then, is what can Romney do?

  29. Teve says:

    @charon: oh, I expect the money men in the GOP have big reservations about Trump. especially with all the damage his tariffs and other trade policies are doing to the economy. They do have a lot of money, and normally that’s important, but they aren’t large in number. And Trump has the ability to get billions of dollars of free press, which negates some of the power of the money men. I think if Romney challenges Trump for the nomination, Romney will be at a serious disadvantage.

  30. James Pearce says:

    @Barry:

    As for allies, he will have them in the Democratic Caucus, if and when he does anything to merit them.

    Sure. Romney’s not the first Never Trump Republican to criticize the president. He’s just the latest.

    And all the Democrats are going, “Yeah, but he’s a Republican and I’m too committed to my stereotypes to accept his help.”

    So Romney rows out alone as the flotilla stays safely out of range of the enemy’s guns….

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  31. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy: What can he do? Or what will he do?

    The answer to the first question is to mouth meaningless words about principals the GOP party he belongs to has largely abandoned.

    The answer to the 2nd question is probably not a damned thing.

  32. OzarkHillbilly says:
  33. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy:

    A convenient ally is an ally of convenience, like the USSR was to the US and Britain in WWII.

    That’s all well and good as long as you don’t confuse an ally of convenience with a friend–as much of the far left at the time did.

  34. Kylopod says:

    @charon:

    There are three principal power centers in the GOP – racists, evangelical Christians and big money.

    There is a lot more overlap in the first two categories than this breakdown mentions.

  35. Kathy says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    I don’t disagree, but that is still the question to ask.

    My hope is Romney can position himself as the sane conservative alternative to Trump, and run for the 2020 nomination.

    It’s well-known that in modern times, incumbents whoa re challenged within their party in the primaries have lost the general election (Ford, Carter and Bush the elder), even after securing the nomination. That’s not why I’m suggesting it, though. for one thing, my inner gambler tells me elections have no memory. For another, it’s not clear whether there is a clear cause and effect rather than correlation; or that the cause and effect are that weak candidates get challenged, rather than challenged candidates lose.

    No, the secondary reason is that Romney might win the nomination, and then we’re rid of Trump. El Dennison might chose to run as an independent, and the entertainment possibilities would be big; especially if the election winds up in the House of Representatives.

    The primary reason is that a competent Romney challenge would allow the GOP to criticize Trump on his record, such as it is (and that, BTW, might be what really dooms challenged incumbents). the hope, and it’s only a hope, is that it might dampen enthusiasm for El Cheeto, even if he gets the nomination again in 2020.

    Politically, Romney can do that because his career is secure until 2024 anyway. But running a campaign has huge personal costs, and it’s exhausting and expensive as well. You don’t do it unless you’re serious about it. We’ll see how serious Romney is in opposing Trump.

  36. Teve says:

    Lord knows I’ve made erroneous predictions in the past. but Trump has 88% support within the shrunken GOP. There’s a hell of a lot more Trump chumps than there are Lloyd Blankfeins. I expect if Romney challenged him in a primary Trump would win 80/20.

  37. Barry says:

    @James Pearce: “And all the Democrats are going, “Yeah, but he’s a Republican and I’m too committed to my stereotypes to accept his help.””

    What we are actually saying is that we’ve seen this before; show us something beyond a Furrowed Brow and Expression of Deep Concern’.

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  38. Barry says:

    @Kathy: “A convenient ally is an ally of convenience, like the USSR was to the US and Britain in WWII. Roosevelt and Churchill knew what Stalin was, they knew Stalin had helped Hitler take Poland, too. They allied anyway, because it helped defeat the Nazis.”

    The difference is that Nazi Germany and the USSR fought each other.

    When Romney raises a hand to Trump, please let me know.Barry

  39. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Doug Mataconis: No, it’s not hard to believe at all. Which is why your “speculation” that

    He could end up just being a rubber-stamp for the GOP like his fellow Republican Senators.

    didn’t need the conditional-mood “could” when “will” would have worked just fine. The problem STILL isn’t Trump, it’s what conservatives believe and want to do, which Mitt is “all in” on, even in his editorial “opposing” Trump.

  40. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Indeed!

  41. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Kylopod:
    Some Republicans prefer their racism and misogyny to be performed with an illusion of civility.

  42. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kylopod:

    He was also an immigration hardliner (remember “self-deportation”?), one of the few issues on which he’s been fairly consistent throughout his career.

    Well being a vulture venture capitalist (I always get those two confused), Mitt knows that there are plenty of under-educated, young, retired, desperate Americans that can be exploited by the low wage job industries. We don’t need to import anywhere near the numbers we’ve been importing from Latin America, Eastern Europe, and Southeast Asia. America First!

  43. Kylopod says:

    @Michael Reynolds: It’s the same old country club vs. Birchers dynamic.

  44. gVOR08 says:

    @Hal_10000:

    demonized by the press/Democrats anytime he votes with him, even on standard-issue Republican issues.

    The press? Remember how they demonized McCain, Corker, and Flake for voting with Trump? Neither do I.

  45. gVOR08 says:

    @Franklin:

    It’s a meaningless statistic, but it is still amusing that Romney got a higher percentage of the ‘popular’ vote than Trump did.

    Roughly 47% to Trump’s 46. It continues to be a source of amusement that it turned out 47% WOULD vote for Romney. Speaking of which, is Willard dumb enough to think all copies of the 47% tape will corrode or something by 2020? I suppose he figures that if he got away with disowning Romneycare….

  46. gVOR08 says:

    Robert Farley has the best take I’ve seen on this yet today. His colleagues at LGM think the Romney op-ed is worthless. Farley sees value.

    Don’t make the mistake of lauding Mitt Romney for his political courage, but taken his opportunism at face value. If you want to know which way the wind blows, it doesn’t hurt to look at the weather vane.

  47. Monala says:

    @James Pearce: Nearly 70 percent of the bills signed into law this [115th – 2017 to 2018] Congress carry at least one Democrat and one Republican cosponsor—the highest of the past 20 years.

    That wouldn’t be the case if Democrats were busy saying, “Yeah, but he’s a Republican and I’m too committed to my stereotypes to accept his help.”

    I know it’s counter to the stereotype you’re committed to that all Democrats suck, but most Democratic officials actually care about good governance, and will support Republican bills or accept Republican support for legislation they agree with.

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  48. MarkedMan says:

    @gVOR08: Like I said above, the most interesting thing about this is that someone like Romney thinks that the upside of going after Trump is bigger than the downside.

  49. Gustopher says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    What can he do? Or what will he do?

    He can do quite a lot, at least at the committee level. He (or any member of the majority) can bottle things up in committee, demand that people be supeonaed, ask critical questions of witnesses.

    He can also become an outspoken critic, and provide moral leadership, showing that a Republican can stand up to Trump without negative consequences. He can act, dare I say it, Presidential, while preparing to primary Trump.

    What will he do? Go on the talk shows and bemoan the lack of civility while repeating all but the most transparently false Trump lies. All while hoping Trump falls, and trying to time a kick so he will risk nothing and appear effective.

  50. James Pearce says:

    @Monala:

    That wouldn’t be the case if Democrats were busy saying, “Yeah, but he’s a Republican and I’m too committed to my stereotypes to accept his help.”

    So it would appear that I’m arguing for the more helpful approach…

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  51. Scott says:

    I don’t think we will get much controversy or hard push from Romney. Just like Flake, I think it is baked into his Mormon soul. Mormons have survived persecution as heretical Christians in this country by getting along and being bland and uncontroversial. Romney is deeply enculturated into not rocking the boat. I don’t think he can go much further without a major paradigm shift from what he is.

  52. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Gustopher:

    He can do quite a lot, at least at the committee level. He (or any member of the majority) can bottle things up in committee, demand that people be supeonaed, ask critical questions of witnesses.

    He’s a freshman Senator. Do you really think Weathervane Mitt is willing to risk the wrath of Mitch and find himself stripped of the committee assignments important to Utahans and and becoming the chair and lone member of the Feral Dog subcommittee subcommittee?

    He will flap his gums while vibrating his vocal chords in a pleasing to the MSM manner.

  53. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Fortunately, those Republicans now comprise about 10% of the GOP.

  54. Moosebreath says:

    @James Pearce:

    “So it would appear that I’m arguing for the more helpful approach…”

    No, it appears that you have been loudly and continually complaining that the Democrats are not doing what they really were, but since your view is limited to the inside of your own anal sphincter, you were not aware of it.

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  55. wr says:

    @James Pearce: “And all the Democrats are going, “Yeah, but he’s a Republican and I’m too committed to my stereotypes to accept his help.”

    His help doing what, exactly? All Romney has done is criticize the president in some of the same ways some Dems have.

    And every time one of those Dems criticizes Trump, you lecture us on how they’re just blowhards who can’t do anything except criticize. But Romney is now some kind of saint for doing exactly the same thing you blast Dems for doing, and Dems suck because they’re not rushing to — well, what, exactly?

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  56. James Pearce says:

    @Moosebreath:

    No, it appears that you have been loudly and continually complaining that the Democrats are not doing what they really were

    In Colorado, Cory Gardner and Michael Bennett team up on stuff all the time, usually stuff like “Let’s clean up old polluted mines.” That’s where you’re 70% comes from.

    So now that we’ve established that bi-partisanship is necessary to get things done…

    @wr:

    But Romney is now some kind of saint for doing exactly the same thing you blast Dems for doing

    Romney is something the Dems are not. He’s a Republican.

    Surely I don’t have to explain why this is important to a smart dude like you.

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  57. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Pearce:

    In Colorado, Cory Gardner and Michael Bennett team up on stuff all the time, usually stuff like “Let’s clean up old polluted mines.” That’s where you’re 70% comes from.

    My take is that that stuff always got done but there used to be a whole slew of other things that also got done but don’t anymore because one side has decided that the only acceptable way of doing things is if you can only do them with votes from your side alone. I wonder which side that would be?

    Well, not to worry, apparently there is a change in the weather: GOP Rep. Will Vote For Pelosi’s Rule Changes Despite Leadership Threats

    Reed told the Post he was voting with the Democrats because of Pelosi’s follow-through on some process changes that he has pushed to ease the way for bipartisan cooperation and lessen the power of both parties’ most ideologically extreme wings.

    He said that he is “glad to support” the Democrats on this measure and will cast his vote as “a sign of good faith to appreciate the work that was done by the Democratic members of the Problem Solvers Caucus and Nancy Pelosi.”

    I don’t have time at the moment but I do wonder what rule changes are being voted on?

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  58. MarkedMan says:

    So Romney is a weathervane and he feels safe enough to publicly attack Trump. Here’s another datapoint: Colter is saying she doesn’t care that Trump is holding out for the wall at the moment as she knows he’ll cave in the end. Put aside the specific policy dispute, it’s interesting that someone whose every dollar comes from reading the currents of the racist right now seems to be turning on him.

  59. Teve says:

    @MarkedMan: Coulter isn’t religious, I bet. If Jerry Falwell Jr is to be believed, the evangelicals will never turn on him.

    Jerry Falwell Jr May soon have his own problems, with regard to a 7-figure payment to a pool boy.

  60. Gustopher says:

    @Teve: That must be some pool boy.

    Usually they just are a few hundred an hour.

  61. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Teve:

    Coulter was raised by a Catholic father and Protestant mother.[64] At one public lecture she said: “I don’t care about anything else; Christ died for my sins, and nothing else matters.”[65] She summarized her view of Christianity in a 2004 column, saying, “Jesus’ distinctive message was: People are sinful and need to be redeemed, and this is your lucky day, because I’m here to redeem you even though you don’t deserve it, and I have to get the crap kicked out of me to do it.” She then mocked “the message of Jesus… according to liberals”, summarizing it as “something along the lines of ‘be nice to people'”, which, in turn, she said “is, in fact, one of the incidental tenets of Christianity.”[66]–Wikipedia

    It appears that she identifies as an Evangelical from what I can see. If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, wears a pillowcase over its head like a duck…

  62. Barry says:

    @Doug Mataconis: “Indeed, it’s all rather frustrating. And given this “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” approach to politics is probably why more Republicans just try to deal with the Trump years by keeping their heads down and not commenting on Trump’s idiocy.”

    Doug, what we expect is that Mitt will talk a big game, and support Trump 95%+ on the votes that matter (there will be symbolic votes which don’t matter).

    Remember that we’ve seen the alleged Great Men of the Senate fold like hacks: McCain (except for one important vote), Sasse, Flake, Corbyn, Collins.

    IMHO, Trump has faced less opposition in a Senate which the GOP holds by very few seats than Obama did with a 60-vote Dem Senate.

  63. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Let’s see how long he keeps it up. That jelly-spined has-been will show his true colors over the course of the next two years. Right now, I think Jeet Heer nailed it.

    Also: I fully understand the need of non-Trump Republicans to claim heroic status for even the slightest anti-DT comments but the fact remains that this group of sell-outs let Trump get the nomination in the first place because of their gutless refusal to take strong steps in opposing him. Fortunately, most intelligent Americans have good memories.

  64. al Ameda says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    I’m sure Romney will spend the next two years being consistently very concerned as he votes in lock step with the administration.

    Mitt has the backbone of a glass of warm water.

  65. Not the IT Dept. says:

    You know, guys, Resistance Ron is not wrong. Good analysis of the seething frustration of the GOP primary votes in 2015. I disagree with his preference for Trump, but he’s quite right about the GOP politicians who fed the flames but only cared about major donors’ tax cuts.

    I upvoted you, RR.