Mitt Romney, whose ascent to the U.S. Senate is virtually assured, apparently sought last week to rewrite history when he denied that he’d been a prominent foe of Donald Trump in 2016. It happened while he was stumping in Arizona for a fellow Senate candidate, after reporters mentioned his leading role in the Never Trump movement. In response, Romney said, “I don’t think that was the case.”
Actually, it was. No other Republican of his stature denounced Trump in such raw language, with the goal of halting Trump’s march to the nomination. In a spring 2016 speech, Romney let loose on the man Republican primary voters adored:
Dishonesty is Donald Trump’s hallmark … He’s not of the temperament of the kind of stable, thoughtful person we need as a leader. His imagination must not be married to real power … Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He’s playing the members of the American public for suckers … He has neither the temperament nor the judgment to be president.
But on Friday, Romney ignored those moral and character critiques. He simply said that Trump’s policies “have been pretty effective, and I support a lot of those policies. Where there’s a place where I disagree, I point that out.” His apparent walk-back was not particularly surprising; Romney has worn many hats during his political career, morphing from moderate Massachusetts governor to social conservative to GOP-establishment scion appalled by Trump-style populism. But it was significant in that it seemed to foreshadow the attitude of Senate Republicans in 2019: It’s Trump’s party, not theirs. Mindful of the president’s iron bond with the Republican base, and without many dissenters left in their ranks, they have been brought to heel.