Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts who lost both the 2008 Republican presidential primary to John McCain and the 2012 presidential election to Barack Obama, has since stayed mainly out of politics. But now, the wishy-washy candidate is eyeing the Utah U.S. Senate seat being vacated by 40-year Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch. While Romney and President Trump have gone verbally toe-to-toe over a few matters, Trump reportedly called Romney to encourage him to run in what will be a mid-term referendum on the president’s performance.
By S.T. Patrick
As Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) prepares to retire after 40 years in the Senate, Mitt Romney has made recent headlines as the likely Republican replacement for Hatch on the 2018 senatorial ballot. Since losing the GOP’s presidential primary to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008 and then the presidential election to President Barack Obama in 2012, Romney has for the most part steered clear of political battles.
First-term mid-term elections are usually referendums on the first two years of a new presidency. In a political environment as emotionally charged as Washington, D.C. is today, the elections of 2018 will center on President Donald Trump and a candidate’s support or opposition for the Trump agenda. Though a source close to the White House confirmed to The Salt Lake Tribune that Trump called Romney and encouraged him to run, the White House only confirmed the call and not the reason for the call.
Recently, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) said that Ken Gardner, a local businessman, phoned him to say that he had received a text from Romney.
“I’m running,” it said.
In the political world of alliances, mending fences that appeared irreparably broken is not as far-fetched as it seems. In a March 2016 speech, Romney was harshly critical of Trump, declaring, “Here’s what I know: Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud.”
After Romney was critical of Trump for not releasing his tax records, Trump responded that Romney was “one of the dumbest and worst candidates in the history of Republican politics.” After predicting that a Trump victory would mean that “the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished,” Trump called Romney “a choke artist.”
Romney publicly stated that he voted for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) in the 2016 Utah caucus, but he never revealed his 2016 general election vote.
After Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton, Romney congratulated him via Twitter and a phone call. Shortly thereafter, Romney met with president-elect Trump at the Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey. The two reportedly discussed a possible appointment for Romney as secretary of state in the new administration. The position eventually went to Rex Tillerson.
After the August violence in Charlottesville, Romney again criticized Trump’s handling of what Romney said should have been a “defining moment” for the Trump presidency. “Whether he intended to or not, what (Trump) communicated caused racists to rejoice, minorities to weep, and the vast heart of America to mourn,” Romney wrote in a Facebook post. “The president must take remedial action in the extreme. He should address the American people, acknowledge that he was wrong, apologize. State forcefully and unequivocally that racists are 100% to blame for the murder and violence in Charlottesville.” Trump had said that there was “blame on both sides” for the violence.
After recent reports surfaced that Trump had used the expression “sh**hole countries” to describe nations like Haiti, Romney took to Twitter in response. “The poverty of an aspiring immigrant’s nation of origin is as irrelevant as their race,” Romney tweeted. “The sentiment attributed to POTUS is inconsistent (with) America’s history and antithetical to American values. May our memory of Dr. King buoy our hope for unity, greatness, and charity for all.”
Romney emerged again last November as he opposed the Alabama senate candidacy of Roy Moore. Political strategist Steve Bannon, giving a speech in support of Moore, addressed Romney directly.
“You hid behind your religion,” Bannon said. “You went to France to be a missionary while guys were dying in rice paddies in Vietnam.”
Bannon was referring to Romney’s devoted membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the Mormons. While Romney’s religion may not present problems in Utah, the global center for Mormonism, many have expressed doubts about the religion’s legitimacy and its practices. Right or wrong, many American evangelical Christians consider Mormonism to be a non-Christian cult, while revisionists and conspiracy theorists are troubled by its structural and traditional proximity to freemasonry. The once-secret, “sacred” rituals performed by Mormons in exclusive temples are now viewable as hidden camera footage on YouTube.
If Romney arrives in Washington, D.C. as the next senator from Utah, his support will be coveted by both the White House as well as the #NeverTrumpers. The milieu of Senate Republicans who indirectly and directly have criticized the president is not small. But a newly elected Sen. Romney may not choose to blend in at all. He may, instead, choose to carve his own path—and maybe in preparation for another even-larger campaign.
S.T. Patrick holds degrees in both journalism and social studies education. He spent ten years as an educator and now hosts the “Midnight Writer News” show. His email is [email protected].