Little Letterhole Politics

Little Letterhole: Romney’s return

IT WILL TAKE a gargantuan effort for the Democratic Party to wrest the Senate away from the Republicans this November. The fractious governing faction is already struggling to pass legislation, and with as many as ten dissenting GOP Senators uneasy with plans for wholesale reform of the welfare system, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell faces an uphill battle to break the deadlock and shepherd his flock in the right direction.

Things will soon become more difficult, not just for McConnell, but for Donald Trump as well. Fiercely and reliably loyal Utah Senator Orrin Hatch is set to retire, and his replacement will almost certainly be one of Trump’s most vocal opponents from within the Republican Party: former presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Mitt Romney represents everything Donald Trump hates. He’s an old-school, Ivy League, establishment Republican who entertained liberal policies during his stint as governor of Massachusetts. Though less wealthy than the President, Romney is a rich man with a history of business success that stands in marked contrast to Trump’s record of bankruptcy and financial uncertainty. Neither has he ever wanted for acceptance. Trump, with his well-documented, lifetime yearning for media attention and public affection, must chafe at the thought of Romney’s ready-made friends and allies in the Mormon church. Worse still, Mitt Romney is a loser: his defeat at the hands of Barack Obama in 2012 is, for Donald Trump, the greatest sin of all.

After that defeat, Mitt Romney kept a low profile. It was not until Trump’s emergence as Republican frontrunner four years later that he re-emerged, launching a scathing attack on the candidate in a speech made at the University of Utah. He pulled no punches: ‘[Donald Trump] is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University.’ Unlike many of his colleagues before and since, Romney was willing to put country before party, recognising the very real threat that Trump posed to the United States. With no need to curry favour from teh Republican establishment, It was difficult to doubt Romney’s sincerity.

Trump certainly didn’t, and spent the next few days tweeting a stream of invective at him in his typically petulant, idiosyncratic tone:

It’s this personal enmity towards Trump, rather than any deviation from the Republican party line that makes Romney dangerous. Now 70-years old, Romney will have few ambitions of career advancement. Instead, he’ll hope to use his considerable clout to move Republican policy in a less populist direction. In a chamber lacking any real leadership, he will be able to exert a strong influence over like-minded colleagues.

If Democrats make only a single gain – as seems likely – in November, more dissent from within the GOP could spell disaster for Trump and McConnell’s legislative agenda. And with the majority already cut by one following Doug Jones’ victory in Alabama last December, Democrats will certainly fancy their chances of bringing the Republican platform to a standstill.

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