Is there anyone on the right at this point who doesn’t like this idea? Even Romney has hinted, however half-heartedly, that he might be open to it.
C’mon, Trump fans. It’s time to heal.
— Ben Pershing (@benpershing) March 29, 2017
Good news for anti-Trumpers: This would put a prominent conservative whom they respect for his intelligence and rectitude back in the national spotlight, in a position of policymaking influence. Good news for Trumpers: With Romney having forged an unlikely detente with Trump during the hunt for a new Secretary of State, he might end up in the Senate as a useful White House ally with the establishment cachet needed to bring mainstream Republicans around on various Trump programs. Romney entering the race would also snuff any chance of Trump nemesis Evan McMullin claiming Hatch’s seat, either by successfully primarying Hatch (highly unlikely) or winning a vacant seat if Hatch ends up retiring anyway (somewhat more likely).
Romney would be an especially interesting guy to have in the Senate if the GOP’s still at an impasse over health care in 2018. The fear among Trumpers, I assume, is that Sen. Romney would revert to his Trump-bashing ways once in Congress, essentially filling the role that McMullin clearly wants to have. I’m not so sure. Romney just turned 70 and might be looking at no more than one term; more than that, as a former presidential nominee and a man whom anti-Trump Republicans are forever favorably comparing to Trump, he occupies an elder statesman niche within the party. I don’t think he’d go to Washington wanting to be a thorn in Trump’s side. I think he’d go there trying to broker agreement within the party and even between the GOP and Democrats, to the extent that’s possible, on broadly popular items like infrastructure. (Although if Trump hasn’t passed an infrastructure bill by 2018, hoo boy.)
It’d be fascinating to see how congressional Democrats would react to him, too. They were uniformly anti-Romney in 2012, of course, but the glaring personal and professional contrasts with Trump are bound to earn him some Strange New Respect from the other side now. And Romney would no longer face any pressure to pander to the grassroots right with promises of (groan) how “severely conservative” he is. He’d be a slam dunk to hold his seat in Utah for however long he wanted it, giving him an unusual amount of room to maneuver ideologically for a Republican. He could seize the opportunity in the health-care breakdown right now by making himself available to Trump as an informal mediator among congressional Republicans, sounding out establishmentarians in Congress and some of the conservatives who backed him in 2012 to see what they’d need to deal on various agenda items. And if he has some success with that, why not consider Hatch’s invitation? Romney’s always seemed like a man in search of a legacy. Helping to get Republicans (or Congress!) working together again would be a fine one. He and Trump in partnership, Mr Establishment and Mr Populist, could make things interesting.