Trump Attempting to Block Romney from Utah Senate Race to Keep MAGA Agenda Rolling
Donald Trump didn’t become President of the United States by being politically ignorant. Nor did he become a billionaire businessman being that way. This point is hammered home by reports that Trump is enticing Utah Senator Orrin Hatch to run again, despite the fact that he’s already the longest serving Republican senator in history at the ripe age of 83. The obvious goal: block Romney by denying him a good chance of winning the Utah senate republican primary, to be held next year.
Politico reports that Trump is going “all out” to persuade seven-term Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch to seek reelection. This “persuasion” comes via private back-channeling and, more overtly, a personal appearance Trump will make today in Utah. The president is expected to reduce the size of Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand-Staircase Escalante national monuments, a cause that Hatch has championed. (Source: Trump moves to block Romney from the Senate, Politico, December 3, 2017.)
But there’s more. Trump is expected to ride with Hatch to and from Washington in Air Force One, which is a nine-hour round trip. Upon landing, the two will leave the plane together and meet with Mormon leaders. Next, Trump and Hatch will head to the state capitol to sign an executive order sharply reducing two Utah national monuments established by his predecessors. (Source: Ibid.)
As Politico notes, the public display of affection isn’t only about blocking Romney. It also relates to the tangible sense of loyalty Trump holds for Hatch. Hatch stood by Trump when the Utah Republican delegation’s withdrew support following “Access Hollywood” tape episode late in the 2016 campaign. And, while plenty of Republicans have chosen to air their gripes with Trump in the public domain, Hatch has consistently elected to voice his grievances privately.
To a man who prioritizes loyalty above all, that fact would not go unnoticed.
Trump Trying to Block “Never Trump” Romney at All Costs
Anybody even remotely familiar with Republican history is aware of the disdain both men hold for each other. It hearkens all the way back to the early stages of Trump’s electoral campaign, with disparaging remarks being flung in both directions. Trump frequently characterized Romney as a “failed candidate” and a “disaster” for the Republican party. Here’s one particularly vicious tweet the president-hopeful disseminated in late February 2016:
Mitt Romney, who was one of the dumbest and worst candidates in the history of Republican politics, is now pushing me on tax returns. Dope!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 25, 2016
After originally disparaging Trump in more traditional political-speak, Romney eventually dropped the gloves. His vitriolic outburst perhaps reached its apex on March 3, 2016, when Romney slammed Trump as “a phony” and “a fraud” who is “playing the American public for suckers.” This is considered the defining moment that the “Never Trump” movement was born. (Source: Romney to Republicans: Never Trump, Politico, March 3, 2016.)
The rhetoric between both men has settled down after the election, but remains simmering. Trump reportedly denied Romney a cabinet post position after a post-election meeting in Trump Towers when the two attempted to mend fences. It’s been understood that Romney has been working behind the scenes to scuttle Trump’s agenda ever since.
Romney also continued to lash out at Trump at various points in 2017. This includes critical remarks regarding Trump’s “muslim ban,” his response to the Charlottesville riots, and Trump’s cutting North Korean speech at the United Nations in September. Here’s but one sample:
A disqualifying & disgusting response by @realDonaldTrump to the KKK. His coddling of repugnant bigotry is not in the character of America.
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) February 29, 2016
Other Factors at Play?
While we’re on board with Politico’s assertion that Trump’s main goal is blocking Romney from the U.S. Senate, could other factors be at play? We think so, based on prior polling.
Back in April, a poll by JMC Analytics found that former presidential candidate Evan McMullin (33% support) would win a head-to-head primary with Orrin Hatch (29% support). McMullin hasn’t declared he’ll run, but it’s a possibility. Trump’s Utah visit might also be an attempt to shore up Hatch’s support in case either McMullin or Romney decide to run.
Also bolstering this theory are the January 2017 numbers showing that 78% of registered Utah voters don’t think Hatch should run for re-election. This anemic support makes Hatch vulnerable to defeat, regardless of who enters the race. (Source: Utah poll: Evan McMullin leads Orrin Hatch in potential Senate matchup, Business Insider, April 21, 2017.)
The moral of the story: Trump may be maneuvering against Romney; but, in truth, Hatch is vulnerable to just about any Republican primary challenger. Not only does Trump have to convince Hatch to run again, but he also must work hard to get him over the finish line. There’s no guarantee Romney won’t run anyway, considering the desire for new representation in Utah.
This is a political battle worth following in the coming months.