Jim Hartman: Romney could be Trump’s toughest foe
Mitt Romney “re-engaged” politically on Feb. 16 by announcing his candidacy for the U.S. Senate from Utah. Romney is widely seen as a “favorite son” in Utah, despite having been born in Michigan and spending most of his adult life in Massachusetts, including serving as governor (2003-2007). A cum laude BYU graduate, he’s credited with salvaging the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics following a scandal. He’s resided in Utah since 2013.
Romney will have no serious GOP opposition for his party’s Senate nomination. Early polling in January has Romney with an overwhelming 64 percent to 19 percent lead over Democrat Jenny Wilson, a member of the Salt Lake County Council. Even 18 percent of Utah Democrats say they would vote for him.
President Trump aggressively lobbied 83-year-old Senator Orrin Hatch to seek an eighth Senate term to block Romney’s candidacy. But Hatch chose to retire and Trump has now endorsed Romney. With Trump and Romney having vigorously lashed in the past, a prospective Sen. Romney can be expected to be Trump’s biggest intra-party competing force.
Romney would enter the Senate with more power than any freshman senator in many years. Some Republican senators are already touting him to head the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2019.
Romney announced his candidacy on the same day the Justice Department indicted Russians for meddling in the 2016 presidential election. He was right about the Russian threat in 2012, and Democrats who are now echoing him when it serves their political purposes against Donald Trump owe the former GOP presidential nominee an apology. They derided his claim Russia was a major geopolitical foe. Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were proven wrong.
On March 9, a Wall Street Journal analysis of now-deleted social media posts revealed Russian-backed online “trolls” flooded social media to try to block Romney from securing a top job in the incoming Trump administration. Then a contender for secretary of state, the operatives called Romney a “two-headed snake” and a “globalist puppet,” promoted a rally outside Trump Tower and spread a petition to block Romney’s appointment to the top diplomatic job.
The revelation comes alongside a new report in the New Yorker that alleges the Kremlin pressured then President-elect Trump to consider a candidate more favorable to Russian interests. President Trump ultimately appointed former Exxon Mobil Corp. chief Rex Tillerson, who said he had a “very close relationship with” Russian President Vladimir Putin, to lead the department.
Trump’s firing of Tillerson and the resignation six days earlier of Gary Cohn, the president’s top economic advisor, underscores an ongoing perception of chaos and turmoil at top levels of the Trump administration. Republican fears of a growing anti-Trump “blue wave” in November were given credence on March 13 with the special election U.S. House victory in Pennsylvania of Democrat Conor Lamb, a district Trump won in 2016 by a 20 percent margin.
Republicans may look to Romney’s leadership in 2019 and beyond with the many uncertainties of the Trump presidency looming ahead. Romney has expressed consistent and informed views on domestic issues — like on taxes, trade, education and immigration — as well as being a proven serious student of foreign policy, evidenced by his correct assessment of Russian intentions.
Jim Hartman resides in Genoa and was a Mitt Romney delegate to the 2012 Republican National Convention.