Former Massachusetts Governor and failed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is expected to finally announce a long-anticipated Senate run to succeed the retiring GOP Senator Orrin Hatch. The Washington Examiner reports that the campaign will kick off with a digital announcement on Thursday, followed by a Friday speech at a GOP gathering in Salt Lake City. But we can count the Utah Republican Party chair out of those enthusiastic about the candidacy.
On Wednesday, state GOP chairman Rob Anderson told the Salt Lake Tribune that the out-of-stater Romney is engaged in carpetbagging indistinguishable from when Hillary Clinton made New York her new home for the sole purpose of running for Senate — and he’s doing so at the expense of authentic conservative representation for the people of Utah.
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“I think he’s keeping out candidates that I think would be a better fit for Utah because let’s face it Mitt Romney doesn’t live here, his kids weren’t born here, he doesn’t shop here,” Anderson said, complaining that Romney was “using name recognition to win a seat” and asking him “First of all, why? And how do you expect to represent Utah when you don’t live here?”
There were three or four other “good, conservative people” that planned to run, he said, declining to give names, but they didn’t feel they had a chance against Romney, who “has been poaching all of the talent as far as campaign and messaging and financing.”
“Nobody wants to go out there like David and Goliath and get defeated by the Romney machine,” he said.
And Anderson isn’t sure Romney would represent the party well, either. “He has never been a Trump supporter,” he said. “I just want somebody to support the party platforms.”
Other Republicans prominent in state circles agreed, with Republican State Central Committee member Don Guymon expressing concern that Romney was being “coronated.” State Auditor John Dougall echoed that sentiment, predicting that Romney would win “not necessarily because of his vision for the future or his hard work but because the press and the UT Republican Party will help ensure his coronation.”
On the other hand, national Republicans representing Utah rose to defend Romney’s fitness to carry on the mantle. Hatch, who encouraged Romney to make the run in the first place, insists that “Mitt has been a household name in Utah for decades, his family history goes back to Mormon pioneers, and he’s done a lot for our state.” Former Rep. Jason Chaffetz went so far as to dub him “Utah’s favorite son” and note that Romney graduated from Brigham Young University and lived in the state while working on the Olympics in 2002. Current Rep. Mia Love also vouched for Romney as “absolutely” deserving of the seat. Romney has been a resident of Utah since 2013.
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But while Romney does have a number of legitimate ties to the state, it remains clear that his latest candidacy owes more to Washington DC friendships than any grassroots conviction that he’s the most effective steward of Utah Republicans’ values and priorities.
More to the point, the problem with Romney is that his allegiances have always been with the Republican establishment rather than movement conservatives. As Conservative Review’s Chris Pandolfo reminds us:
Romney seldom takes an opportunity to weigh in on social media in support of conservative causes, but he is frequently a critic of President Trump. As Congress has abandoned fiscal sanity, as the Senate considers an immigration deal that codifies President Obama’s illegal amnesty, Romney has used his platform to attack Trump rather than address issues that matter to conservatives.
The poverty of an aspiring immigrant’s nation of origin is as irrelevant as their race. The sentiment attributed to POTUS is inconsistent w/ America’s history and antithetical to American values. May our memory of Dr. King buoy our hope for unity, greatness, & “charity for all.”
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) January 15, 2018
Indeed, Romney would most likely be another Jeff Flake or Ben Sasse, judging by his track record of falsely accusing Trump of emboldening white supremacists in the wake of the Charlottesville violence (never mind that Trump unequivocally denounced bigotry and hate in his very first remarks); hailing as “Lincolnesque” a speech in which fellow militant moderate John McCain straw-manned Trump as an isolationist; calling on Republicans to abandon Roy Moore in Alabama on the same day Trump endorsed him (while conveniently keeping his mouth shut about Al Franken and other Democrats facing comparable allegations); and even defending Antifa thugs as “oppos[ing] bigotry and racism.”
I don’t presume to know what kind of conservative candidates the Utah GOP may have had waiting in the wings. But thanks to Mitt Romney, we won’t get the chance to find out.