What Utah voters really want from Mitt Romney

Many Utah conservatives, Cox said, will want Romney to work with the White House where he can on issues that matter to the state, and to advance conventional Republican policy goals. But, he told me, “I don’t think Utahns want a rubber stamp.”

“I think Mitt sees himself in sort of a John McCain role,” Cox said. “How would you describe John McCain’s relationship with the president? It was a little bit of a frenemy relationship.”

He noted that Romney has publicly signaled his independence from the president a few times in recent weeks. Shortly before the election, Romney published an essay on his campaign website criticizing at length Trump’s vilification of the news media. When Jeff Sessions resigned as attorney general, Romney tweeted that it was “imperative” that Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation be allowed to proceed unimpeded. And a couple weeks later, Romney put out a statement calling the president’s response to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi “inconsistent … with basic human rights, and with American greatness.”

“I think it’s a hint of more to come,” Cox said of the statements.