Revenge: Trump Seeks to Block Mitt Romney’s Political Future

It was one of the most memorable moments of an extraordinarily memorable Republican primary season: Former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, standing on stage and delivering a brutal takedown of the improbable 2016 frontrunner, Donald J. Trump. With a blistering half-hour speech, Romney called Trump a “phony,” a “fraud,” and a “con-man” who had turned everything he touched outside the narrow real estate market to garbage. Romney blasted the future president’s failures in every venture from steaks to airlines, concluding that conservative voters should pick whichever of the remaining candidates that happened to be ahead in the polls in their state. Then, he figured, the party could sort through the mess at the convention and avoid the disaster that would be a President Trump.

Of course, it didn’t work out the way Romney had hoped. In short order, Trump had dispatched with Ted Cruz and John Kasich and made the Republican nomination his own. It seemed that Romney’s fierce disapproval was water under the bridge when Trump considered him for his Secretary of State, but that didn’t wind up going anywhere. And since Trump’s inauguration, Romney has not been shy about criticizing the president on everything from foreign policy to his remarks on Charlottesville.

It’s hard to say at this point if Trump considers Romney an enemy, per se, but he certainly does not count him as an ally. With the Russia investigation breathing down his neck and an extremely slim majority in the Senate, the last thing the president needs is another Republican in the upper chamber who will thwart him when he needs a reliable vote. Trump and Stephen Bannon are on a mission to drain the swamp of Establishment-types who oppose the duo’s new vision of Republican politics, and a slate of announced retirements is getting them closer to their goal of a firmly-entrenched, Trump-loyal majority. If Romney runs for and wins the Senate seat in Utah, it would be a step backwards.

Therefore it should not be a surprise to see that Trump is doing everything he can to keep Romney from making good on his plans. And that starts with encouraging his friend Orrin Hatch (R-UT) to postpone retirement for a few more years. Hatch has been signaling that he’s ready to step down, and he has even apparently encouraged Romney to run for his seat. In turn, Romney has been preparing to do just that.

But according to Politico, Trump and Bannon are eager to nip that turn of events in the bud.

“The president’s mostly behind-the-scenes campaign to sway Hatch will burst into public view on Monday, when he arrives in Salt Lake City to hold a well-choreographed event designed to showcase his affection for the powerful Senate Finance Committee chairman,” Politico writes. “Trump’s appearance is ostensibly official in purpose: He will announce his decision to reduce the size of Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand-Staircase Escalante national monuments, a cause that Hatch has championed. But it’s also undeniably political: To use the trappings of presidential power to get a veteran lawmaker to rethink his long anticipated plans to leave the Senate.”

At the end of the day, this may be less about “revenge,” and more about Trump putting political power behind a senator who has become one of his most steadfast allies. Hatch – a four-decade veteran of Washington – is no one’s idea of a conservative insurgent, but he has proven his loyalty to the Trump brand time and time again. At a time when Trump is looking high and low for people he can trust, trading Hatch for Romney is a bad deal.