Media hopeful for intra-party GOP fight over Mitt Romney running for Utah Senate seat

Trump-haters are setting themselves up for another disappointment.  After more than four decades in the Senate, Utah's Orrin Hatch yesterday announced his retirement when his term ends, clearing the way for Mitt Romney to run for his seat.

In a clear signal of his intent to run, Romney changed his location on his Twitter account from Massachusetts to Holladay, Utah.

Many experienced observers of Utah politics, including former Utah rep. Jason Chaffetz, now a Fox News contributor, expect Mitt to win easily.  Utahans know that Mitt stepped up and rescued the Winter Olympics in 2002, and as a practicing Mormon, he enjoys a sense of being a native son in the nation's only LDS-majority state, even though he grew up in Michigan and made his career in Massachusetts.

Because President Trump and Mitt have publicly sparred, most pointedly when Romney indignantly condemned Trump's reaction to the Charlottesville riots, it has been assumed that a Romney victory would be anathema to Trump.  Speculation immediately began as to whether Steve Bannon will launch another attempt to play a role as spoiler, as he did in Alabama with disastrous results.  Trump-haters would like nothing better.  Callum Borchers writes in the Washington Post:

Stephen K. Bannon needs a new project, and Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) might have just given him one by announcing Tuesday that he will not seek re[-]election this year.

Bloomberg News reported in October that Bannon was planning to play in almost every Republican Senate primary contest, anyway, but a couple of the Breitbart News chief's would-be targets – Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) – have said that they plan to leave Washington without a fight.

What fun is that?

The race to succeed Hatch in Utah could represent an irresistible challenge for Bannon, especially if Mitt Romney runs.  As I have noted before, Romney and Breitbart News were very friendly in 2012, when the former Massachusetts governor was the GOP presidential nominee.  But since Romney lost to Barack Obama – an event that roughly coincided with Bannon assuming control of Breitbart – Romney has become a symbol of the political establishment Breitbart reviles.

I will be surprised if Mitt Romney doesn't win the Senate race and take office in 2019.  It is possible that Bannon will run a token opponent to Romney, but I would not count on it.  Unlike Alabama, where Big Luther had some scandal skeletons rattling in his closet and Roy Moore had a dedicated band of followers who turned out for a primary, there is no prominent potential challenger I am aware of, and Romney is widely admired by voters.

Keep in mind that both Romney and Bannon are Harvard MBAs who graduated within a few years of each other.  They both are schooled in decision-making methods that emphasize probabilities and alternatives.  Both men became wealthy by keeping emotions in check in favor of dispassionate analysis.

I also suspect that a future Senator Romney and President Trump would work out a modus vivendi that would enable both men to maintain their principles without becoming mortal opponents in every single issue.  Remember that, like Trump, Romney was a deal-maker.  Working in business for decades, both men have had to work closely with people they may despise, or at least dislike, finding common ground where mutual benefits clearly exist.  There is clear evidence of this in the mating dance that had Mitt up for consideration as Trump's secretary of state.

While I don't know Mitt, I have to wonder if he has perhaps learned a lesson from his instinctive criticism of Trump after Charlottesville fizzling out to nothing.  Perhaps he sees the mainstream-media Trump-hatred as such a constant that the impulse to virtue-signal by going along meets some mental analysis before finding verbal expression.  The fact that Trump's most vitriolic critics are being exposed as hysterical might also figure into his calculus.  The pragmatist in Mitt (and I suspect he prides himself on his pragmatism) mist recognize that Trump is actually accomplishing a lot of the conservative agenda in only one year.

If Lindsey Graham can be converted from bitter Trump critic to issue-by-issue ally, then so can Mitt Romney.

Mitt's courtliness will be a good fit with the Senate's traditions, and his high intelligence and secure political base will enable him to support Trump whenever he feels that Trump is doing the right thing. 

Trump-haters are setting themselves up for another disappointment.  After more than four decades in the Senate, Utah's Orrin Hatch yesterday announced his retirement when his term ends, clearing the way for Mitt Romney to run for his seat.

In a clear signal of his intent to run, Romney changed his location on his Twitter account from Massachusetts to Holladay, Utah.

Many experienced observers of Utah politics, including former Utah rep. Jason Chaffetz, now a Fox News contributor, expect Mitt to win easily.  Utahans know that Mitt stepped up and rescued the Winter Olympics in 2002, and as a practicing Mormon, he enjoys a sense of being a native son in the nation's only LDS-majority state, even though he grew up in Michigan and made his career in Massachusetts.

Because President Trump and Mitt have publicly sparred, most pointedly when Romney indignantly condemned Trump's reaction to the Charlottesville riots, it has been assumed that a Romney victory would be anathema to Trump.  Speculation immediately began as to whether Steve Bannon will launch another attempt to play a role as spoiler, as he did in Alabama with disastrous results.  Trump-haters would like nothing better.  Callum Borchers writes in the Washington Post:

Stephen K. Bannon needs a new project, and Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) might have just given him one by announcing Tuesday that he will not seek re[-]election this year.

Bloomberg News reported in October that Bannon was planning to play in almost every Republican Senate primary contest, anyway, but a couple of the Breitbart News chief's would-be targets – Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) – have said that they plan to leave Washington without a fight.

What fun is that?

The race to succeed Hatch in Utah could represent an irresistible challenge for Bannon, especially if Mitt Romney runs.  As I have noted before, Romney and Breitbart News were very friendly in 2012, when the former Massachusetts governor was the GOP presidential nominee.  But since Romney lost to Barack Obama – an event that roughly coincided with Bannon assuming control of Breitbart – Romney has become a symbol of the political establishment Breitbart reviles.

I will be surprised if Mitt Romney doesn't win the Senate race and take office in 2019.  It is possible that Bannon will run a token opponent to Romney, but I would not count on it.  Unlike Alabama, where Big Luther had some scandal skeletons rattling in his closet and Roy Moore had a dedicated band of followers who turned out for a primary, there is no prominent potential challenger I am aware of, and Romney is widely admired by voters.

Keep in mind that both Romney and Bannon are Harvard MBAs who graduated within a few years of each other.  They both are schooled in decision-making methods that emphasize probabilities and alternatives.  Both men became wealthy by keeping emotions in check in favor of dispassionate analysis.

I also suspect that a future Senator Romney and President Trump would work out a modus vivendi that would enable both men to maintain their principles without becoming mortal opponents in every single issue.  Remember that, like Trump, Romney was a deal-maker.  Working in business for decades, both men have had to work closely with people they may despise, or at least dislike, finding common ground where mutual benefits clearly exist.  There is clear evidence of this in the mating dance that had Mitt up for consideration as Trump's secretary of state.

While I don't know Mitt, I have to wonder if he has perhaps learned a lesson from his instinctive criticism of Trump after Charlottesville fizzling out to nothing.  Perhaps he sees the mainstream-media Trump-hatred as such a constant that the impulse to virtue-signal by going along meets some mental analysis before finding verbal expression.  The fact that Trump's most vitriolic critics are being exposed as hysterical might also figure into his calculus.  The pragmatist in Mitt (and I suspect he prides himself on his pragmatism) mist recognize that Trump is actually accomplishing a lot of the conservative agenda in only one year.

If Lindsey Graham can be converted from bitter Trump critic to issue-by-issue ally, then so can Mitt Romney.

Mitt's courtliness will be a good fit with the Senate's traditions, and his high intelligence and secure political base will enable him to support Trump whenever he feels that Trump is doing the right thing.