I mean yes, obviously, but there’s zero chance that he’d elbow 900-year-old Orrin Hatch in the face to get him out of the way just so he and Trump can square off in Washington.
But I like the way NeverTrumper Rick Wilson is thinking. This may be the only state in the country where an anti-Trump insurgent would face a pro-Trump incumbent in the Republican primary with an exceedingly good chance of winning. If conservatives are looking for an easy battlefield victory in the War For The Soul Of The GOP™, it don’t come easier than Romney vs. Hatch in Utah.
2018 is about one thing: President Trump. And while Hatch has acquiesced to the grotesque Trump status-quo, Romney is one of the few marquee Republicans who’s had the courage to call Trump out. If we’re going to save the party from the trash fire it’s become, Republicans need to start having it out, and this is as good a place as any to start. If that means seven-term Sen. Hatch has to go, oh well…
And Utah is a perfect fit for him. He’s been out of the spotlight, but he’s as well-known as any Republican politician. Like Hatch, he’d be a Mormon running in a strongly Mormon state. Unlike Hatch, who’s become just another reliable Republican vote, Romney’s evident distaste for the current administration is something in sorely short supply among Republicans in Congress…
Rather than do battle with pro-Trumpers, Sens. Jeff Flake and Bob Corker are bowing out next year. But the future of the country is at stake. It’s time for a real Republican to show some spine and bow in, even if it means primarying someone who Romney undoubtedly regards as a friend.
If Romney decided he was tired of waiting for Hatch to say whether he’s running again and told him privately that he intends to run next year whether Hatch is in or out, I assume Hatch would fume for a few weeks and then announce that he’s “chosen” to retire after all. He almost certainly couldn’t beat Romney. Go look at the numbers again from this poll, which I posted yesterday. Utah polling has been consistent all year in showing that voters are tired of Hatch. He mocked the man he replaced in the Senate (as Wilson notes) for having served three terms, then went on to serve seven. He announced in 2012 that this would be his last term and now, at the age of 83, he’s wavering. He’s the model of a career politician and an exceedingly hypocritical one. And Romney is so extraordinarily popular in Utah that he’d have little trouble capitalizing on the state’s Hatch fatigue. Even if Trump and Steve Bannon went all-in to stop Romney by backing Hatch, that might end up hurting them more than it hurt Mitt. Imagine the absurdity of the two populist firebrands who led the MAGA revolution endorsing an establishment swamp-dwelling dinosaur who voted for the Gang of Eight bill in 2013. Romney should primary Hatch if only to force that choice upon Trump and Bannon.
But here’s the thing. What the hell would the primary be *about*? Like Wilson says, Romney and Hatch agree on nearly everything. Romney could make a fuss about how long Hatch has been in the Senate but he’s 70 years old himself and spent a good 20 years between the early 90s and his presidential run in 2012 angling for elected office. He could zero in on Congress’s failure to pass major legislation but (a) Hatch has voted with Trump and McConnell loyally and (b) the GOP may yet pass tax reform, with an assist from Hatch’s committee. The only thing to argue about would be Trump, and Romney surely doesn’t want to be pigeonholed as Senator Trump-hater. It would turn some friends into enemies, would force Utahns to choose between him and a Republican president in the primary, and would leave Romney spending most of the campaign scolding Hatch for not scolding Trump frequently enough. Nobody likes a scold. He’d probably win anyway but it wouldn’t be fun.
More than anything, Romney challenging Hatch and by extension Trump would be an outright declaration of war on Trumpism and its enablers. If he won, he’d go to Washington less as a senator from Utah than as a leader of a rival national faction within a party undergoing a schism. He’d spend his six years on the Hill viewed more as a counterweight to Trump, a symbol of the party’s rump conservative-ish wing that still believes character matters, than as a legislator. That’s why anti-Trumpers will exult in Wilson’s suggestion: That’s what they want, a conservative “Resistance” of their own and someone to lead it. But is that what Romney wants? Maybe the guy just wants to be a senator, knowing that in any test of popularity on the right between him and Trump, Trump is almost certainly destined to win and to humiliate him.
In lieu of an exit question, today’s Romney tweet du jour. I’m expecting big things from POTUS tomorrow morning on Twitter by criticizing the IOC for being unfair to poor Vladimir Putin.
By sanctioning Russia, Olympic officials place honor and integrity above money and politics. Russia under Putin is shown, once again, to place winning above the rule of law, above honesty, and above the interests of its own athletes.
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) December 5, 2017