Politics & Policy

The Case For, and Against, Mitt Romney for U.S. Senate

From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

The Case For, and Against, Romney for U.S. Senate

Should Mitt Romney be the next U.S. senator from Utah?

The Salt Lake Tribune, this morning:

One Romney confidant, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations, said Tuesday was “[retiring Senator] Orrin [Hatch]’s day” and the Romney circle didn’t want to intrude on that.

But the trajectory seems set.

“We all know the direction this is going,” said the Romney insider. “And I think we’ll know within the next couple of weeks definitively.”

I love the guy, and I believe the country’s decision to reelect Barack Obama instead of electing Romney will rank as one of the electorate’s worst mistakes. I think a good portion or perhaps all of the business world’s confidence and optimism that we’ve enjoyed in the past year could have started in 2013 if the electorate had made a different decision. I suspect a President Romney would have responded to the rise of ISIS dramatically differently, would never have pursued a magic-beans deal with Iran, would have enforced a “red line” on chemical weapons in Syria, spat hot fire at the first inkling of the scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs…

No doubt, Mitt Romney has all of the skills and intellect to make a great senator. He knows the issues in great detail, studies them, analyzes them – it’s what he’s done professionally his entire life. He’s got deep-rooted principles but aims to be pragmatic and to reach the best compromise possible. His passions never get the best of him, he’s calm, polite, respectful but direct. His humor is G-rated, and when he does mock, he makes fun of himself – fighting boxer Evander Holyfield in an event for charity.

During the 2012 campaign he was mocked for being old-fashioned, a throwback, out of date with modern sensibilities. That strikes me as an enormous compliment. Our political world would be better with more Mitt Romneys and fewer bomb-throwers who want a television contract with Fox News. His presence in the U.S. Senate could make our politics more respectful, more focused on problem-solving, and just plain better.

With all of that having been said…

If elected, Romney would instantly become perceived as “the leader of the Republican opposition” to Trump, and I’m not sure that’s such a good idea for the cause of conservatism. Fairly or not, Romney is the man who took on a flawed incumbent Democratic president and came up short. He turns 71 on March 12. No doubt he’s in fine physical and mental health, but he is not the future of the Republican Party or the conservative cause.

It’s Utah. There are probably bright, driven, accomplished, scandal-free conservative Republicans growing on trees out there. If Romney jumps in, is there some other great conservative rising star whose debut on the national stage will be delayed as a result?

Romney’s relationship with Trump is complicated at best. In early March of 2016, Romney gave a highly-publicized speech about Trump, ripping the then-frontrunner to pieces from top to bottom, denouncing his economic policies, his foreign policies, and his character. It had little to no effect on Trump’s ascendance. Trump later interviewed Romney to be Secretary of State, although he may very well have only asked Romney to be considered just so that he could reject him.

Utah voters may not want their junior senator to be the leader of the Republican Resistance. No doubt the departing senator Orrin Hatch and Trump have plenty of ideological and personal differences, but they worked well enough together and Trump called him “a friend” in his statement about the senator’s retirement yesterday. No doubt, plenty of Utah voters disapprove of Trump or regard him warily, but he still won the state by 17 points. The anti-Trump conservative candidate, Evan McMullin – a Provo-born, Brigham-Young-graduate Mormon – won just 21 percent.

 

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