Confusion and conflicting messages are reigning on whether Mitt Romney will be a thorn in Trump’s side or one of his staunchest backers should he make it to Capitol Hill. There are those who believe Romney will use his reputation to push and push and push when necessary in hopes of showing the Republican Establishment isn’t dead. Via POLITICO:
He’s conveyed a desire to be a loud voice on fiscal issues, railing against the ballooning federal deficit and how Congress approves last-minute spending bills. He’s expressed an interest in joining the foreign affairs committee, saying he wants to speak out on the importance of the country’s role abroad and the threat posed by Russia.
And his top aides have broached the prospect that Romney could tap into the expansive national fundraising network that he established during his 2012 presidential bid to bankroll GOP candidates. Since entering the Senate race, Romney has spoken with Las Vegas casino mogul and mega-donor Sheldon Adelson and has quietly encouraged major party givers to open their checkbooks for super PACs devoted to saving the party’s House and Senate majorities.
“He’s not going to be your typical freshman senator,” said Utah GOP Gov. Gary Herbert. “I think people are going to say, ‘Let’s watch Mitt. What’s Mitt going to do?’”
This goes against Romney’s own comments from last week where he confidently proclaimed Trump would “solidly” win re-election in 2020. The Massa-no-presid-no-Utah U.S. Senate candidate appeared to cite the economy and the fact Democrats will more than likely put forth someone he thinks is “really out of the mainstream of American thought.” It also goes against a report in The New York Times on how Romney is planning to be deferential towards Trump.
He has praised Mr. Trump on policy (“we’re pretty much in the same place”) and accepted the president’s endorsement without delay.
Pressed on his past criticisms at a debate last month, Mr. Romney acknowledged no contradiction or reversal. “I’ve known the president for a long, long time and the president has endorsed me in this campaign,” he said, “which shows he respects people who call ‘em like they see ‘em.”
The evolution began with Mr. Trump’s election. Shortly afterward, as Mr. Trump weighed options for his first secretary of state, he considered Mr. Romney, who made pilgrimage to Manhattan to dine on frog legs with Mr. Trump in a public show of harmony.
It appears the only consistency is the belief Romney is interested in being involved in foreign policy. Both NYT and POLITICO suggested Romney wants to be on the Senate foreign relations committee, and his issues with Russia are well known. The policy debates between Romney and Rand Paul would be interesting should both of them end up on the same committee. One would guess his more interventionist tendencies would make him a key ally of Lindsey Graham in the Senate essentially replacing John McCain. Romney would also more than likely want to see even more sanctions on the Kremlin and probably would push Trump towards not putting Russia back in the G7.
There are those who believe the Trump-Romney alliance will end up lasting longer than most realize. Utah Governor Gary Herbert is one, having told POLITICO Trump and Romney will find their differences minimal.
During a meeting with Trump earlier this year, Herbert recalled, the president asked him about Romney and how he’d fare in the Senate race.
Herbert told the president that Romney would sail into office. And he made the case that Romney and the president could get along. When it came to the issues, Herbert argued to Trump, they weren’t that far apart.
“Mitt used to be my friend,” Herbert recalled the president saying in response. Trump, he said, then added: “I think you’re right, we agree on a lot of stuff.”
This isn’t surprising as Romney is more of an immigration hawk than Trump at times, and Trump is more of an interventionist than people like to realize (why are we at war in Qatar?). Both want to see major upticks in military spending, including the Navy. The pair might clash on some entitlement programs – mainly Social Security – but they’d probably get along for the most part. The other confrontation would probably be on rhetoric and, probably, tariffs.
It would be nice if Romney pushed the Senate towards more fiscal restraint, but all those who preach cuts and smaller government tend to be swallowed up by the lure of power once in the halls of the Senate (unless your name is Justin Amash and Paul, for the most part). My guess is the two end up being solid allies with the occasional disagreement. This is contingent on Romney winning the Utah GOP primary and the November election, but there probably won’t be any real roadblock on either. Probably.