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What would a Romney Senate run portend for Trump?

REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Mitt Romney has mostly stayed out of the limelight during Trump’s first White House year.

Might Mitt Romney save the nation and the world from Donald Trump?

Romney (the former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential nominee) is indeed telling people that he will run in this year’s election for the open Senate seat from Utah (although not yet saying it publicly). He hasn’t ever really lived in Utah, but does have a home there, and, as a Mormon, may feel like kin to many Utahans. It’s too far out to take this to the bank, but the punditocracy says he starts the race as the prohibitive favorite for the Republican nomination and the general election.

If all that turns out to be right, Romney will replace the retiring Orrin Hatch, who has been a loyal and obedient Trump man throughout 2017. Romney, on the other hand, offered himself late in the 2016 primary season as the leader or at least the chief cheerleader of a Stop Trump movement, not as the candidate to replace him on the ticket.

Here are a few of the things Romney said in his big March 2016 speech urging Republicans in the late primary states to vote strategically for whichever candidate or candidates was best positioned to deny Trump the Republican nomination. Romney disputed the notion Trump was any kind of big success in business, and said Trump doesn’t know what he is talking about:

Now Donald Trump tells us he is very, very smart. I’m afraid that when it comes to foreign policy, he is very, very not smart. …

“Here’s what I know. Donald Trump is a phony. A fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. … He’s playing the members of the American public for suckers. He gets a free ride to the White House, and all we get is a lousy hat. …

[Trump] has neither the temperament nor the judgment to be president. His personal qualities mean that if he were to become president, America would no longer be a shining city on a hill.”

If you’d like to read the full text of Romney’s big Anybody-But-Trump speech (delivered in Utah, by the way), they are here.

Trump, by the way, repaid Romney’s insults by describing the 2012 nominee as having “choked like a dog” in his race against President Barack Obama.

If Romney stuck with the views described above, and wins the Utah Senate race, he would immediately become the most anti-Trump Senate Republican. Even more substantively important, if he refused to go along with Trumpism, he could end up being a key swing vote in the Senate on many matters, large and small.

After the surprising victory by Democrat Doug Jones in the Alabama special election, Republicans currently hold just a 51-49 Senate majority, although they also have Vice President Mike Pence on their team, empowered to cast the tie-breaking vote in case of 50-50 ties.

Although polls suggest that Democrats currently have the national political winds at their back, the lineup of Senate races that are up in 2018 overwhelmingly favors the GOP. (That’s because, of the 34 seats that will be on the ballot in 2018, 25 are already held by Democrats (or one of the two independents who caucus with them) which puts the Dems on defense in the 25 of the 34 races.

If Republicans emerge from November with a tiny majority, Trump’s chances of getting his bills passed in the Senate in 2019-20 will depend on getting cooperation from the least Trumpy members. You know the list (although other than Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, several of the most prominent Senate Republican Trump skeptics, like Jeff Flake of Arizona and Bob Corker of Tennessee, are retiring and John McCain is fighting for his life against cancer).

Now, into that equation, if you add a prominent voice like Romney’s, replacing a Trump loyalist like Hatch, it’s not hard to envision a scenario in which Romney will hold the balance on many votes and, if he were to continue expressing views similar to those quoted above, he might be the least Trump-friendly member of the caucus.

The last complicating factor is that Romney (crazy as this sounds given what’s written above) was under serious consideration, during the transition, to be Trump’s secretary of state. During that brief phase, he certainly stopped calling Trump a fraud and tried to make nice. One suspects that Trump enjoyed this phase of their relationship more than when Romney was calling him a phony.

Romney has mostly stayed out of the limelight during Trump’s first White House year. If the reports are true, he will soon announce his availability to join the Senate, and he will surely be asked, often, about his previously expressed Trump-bashing remarks. We’ll see how he plays it. 

Comments (13)

  1. Submitted by Sean Olsen on 01/16/2018 - 09:24 am.


    Romney is the Senate is likely to be Ben Sasse, part two: lots of talk about what a bad guy the President is, but lots of votes in favor of the agenda.

  2. Submitted by Mike Chrun on 01/16/2018 - 09:29 am.

    You Have More Faith Than I

    What we have seen over and over, is Republicans maybe saying something, when the Trump says something outrageous, dishonest, or racist. Then they retreat from the cameras and microphones and hope nobody asks them for their opinion when Trump again says something outrageous, dishonest, or racist. We don’t have to wait long for that to occur, sometimes not even a day. But when it comes to actions or votes, they are nowhere to be found. Pretty sure Romney would be the same. The key phrase is, “Tried to make nice,” when he thought he had a shot at Secretary of State. If a sequel to “Profiles in Courage” was to be written on today’s politicians, I am afraid it would be a very thin book.

  3. Submitted by Henk Tobias on 01/16/2018 - 09:59 am.

    What Mike Chrun says…

    I would only add that at the end of the day, the Trump agenda is the Republican agenda. Unfortunately for them he says things out loud that they say privately. A great example is Jeff Flake, right now he’s making a big show of calling Trump’s attacks on the press as Stalinesque, while at the very same time voting 90% for the Trump agenda. Romney will be no different. He’ll squeal loudly while supporting Trump quietly. Most likely Romney, like Flake, is setting himself up for a shot at the presidency.

  4. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 01/16/2018 - 10:02 am.

    Which is the real Romney?

    Should he become a candidate, one question worth asking Mr. Romney will be whether the Trump-bashing version or the making-nice version is the one voters should be expecting if he wins the Senate seat (as, in Utah, we can reasonably assume he will). Duplicity makes up a substantial portion of politics, but lately, ordinary citizens, not immune to some duplicity themselves from time to time, have nonetheless had to endure several barns full of manure from the Current Occupant, so this strikes me as a legitimate area of inquiry from both media and voters.

    Romney is himself too much the plutocrat for me to be enthused by the prospect of him entering a legislative body that’s already heavily populated by people who have little connection to the lives of ordinary Americans. Romney’s quotes during his failed presidential campaign, even if overly hyped by the media, nonetheless left a bad taste in this household. Still, as plutocrats go, he’s far and away more civilized than the Current Occupant. Should the more critical Romney be the one to enter the Senate, I can only hope that it will spell trouble for a Trump/McConnell push to take us back to the 18th century. In close Senate votes, however, since Mr. Pence personifies the dictionary definition of “sycophant,” a newly-elected Romney would have to deal with that, just like the other Senators.

    Also worth asking, since Romney was the initiator of the experiment in Massachusetts that spawned the Affordable Care Act, is how he’d likely vote on Republican proposals to further hamper what was a successful health care program that had some problems. Republican proposals for replacement of the ACA are ideologically-wrapped hogwash, for the most part, and this is an area where Mr. Romney actually has some knowledge and expertise.

    But before we get too wrapped up in a potential Romney candidacy, let’s remember that one of Minnesota’s Senators will be up for election this fall, as well, and she’s not nearly as well-known as the Senator she’s replacing.

  5. Submitted by Charles Thompson on 01/16/2018 - 10:03 am.


    Bottom line Mitt still wants to be president

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/16/2018 - 01:52 pm.

      What Mitt Wants

      Interestingly, after he lost, one of Romney’s sons told about how little his father “really” wanted to be President. The son was probably intending to convey a subtext that that Dad would have won, if he had wanted to

      Never mind that Romney père had spent several years gearing up for the race. Never has so uch effort been put into such reluctance.

  6. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 01/16/2018 - 10:36 am.


    I find it odd to be on the position of the greater evil that must not be compromised with.

  7. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 01/16/2018 - 12:34 pm.

    Flip. Flop.

    In 2012, the oh so principled Romney was only too eager to accept the endorsement of Don Trump. Romeny flew out to Vegas to personally accept the endorsement, even while Trump had long been spreading race-baiting birther lies about Obama.

    Gosh, Mitt, what’s changed? Lie down with dogs…

  8. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 01/16/2018 - 03:05 pm.

    Romney wouldn’t survive a Trump onslaught

    Trump isn’t done with Romney because Romney called Trump a fraud. Trump publicly humiliated Romney by interviewing him for the Secretary of State job and then not giving him the job. Trump will come up with one of his derogatory nicknames for Romney and add an onslaught of fiction to belittle him. Romney is too boring and oh so milquetoast to make it through to the senate.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/16/2018 - 03:50 pm.

      Too Boring

      Remember the state he will be running to represent. Can you be too boring for Utah?

      Snark aside, Utah is conservative, but I don’t think Trump is that popular there. It’s not the policy, it’s the personal style. Attacks from Trump might give Romney something of a boost.

  9. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 01/16/2018 - 09:05 pm.

    So who would be a better president: Trump or Romney?

  10. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 01/17/2018 - 09:09 am.


    As others have pointed out, in terms of the job itself, Trump acts as a generic Republican president would. He is a mostly passive figure who looks to others for details of policy, exactly the place where devils and partisans love to lurk. He reminds me of a governor of Louisiana who was so agreeable to whatever the legislature does that he signed a leaf that happened to blow through the window.

    I find all this at least a little bit surprising. Trump presented himself during the campaign as a change candidate, one who would come into office, and maybe not just drain the swamp but blow it up altogether. It is one of the most ancient and successful political models. And presumably, of all the politicians in history who have employed that model, Donald with his vast personal wealth, and his lack of obligation to the establishment, was best positioned to pursue it. He could be like a per-boredom Jesse Ventura. But the moment he came into office he abandoned those attitudes and postures, easily and with no thought at all, which among other things creates a huge political opportunity for Democrats. Why didn’t he do that? How did such a high energy guy lose his mojo?

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 01/17/2018 - 01:30 pm.

      It you look at his record

      He was never really a ‘high energy’ guy.
      The hardest thing he ever did was filing for bankruptcy.

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