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Editor’s Note: As is ever the case on Meridian Magazine, the opinions represented in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of this publication.
In the dozens of political races I’ve covered or participated in, I’m rarely left scratching my head as I try to figure out why various politicians do what they do. All six of the candidates currently running for president of the USA and their supporters are fairly transparent in their actions.
But the one who leaves me speechless is Mitt Romney with his recent series of verbal salvos at Donald Trump. He’s even invoked his legacy to his children and grandchildren as the ostensible reason for this verbal barrage, that he couldn’t face them if he didn’t attack Trump.
And that’s what puzzles me.
In the final month of Romney’s campaign for President of the USA against sitting President Barrack Obama, Romney was ahead in the polls. Obama’s attack dogs hit Romney with vicious accusations that Romney was a failed businessman, that his wealth was inherited, that he had taken advantage of the little man. They trotted out people who had been laid off because of Romney’s cost-cutting measures that led to plant closures. And ripped into Romney for stereotyping 47% of the American electorate as welfare cases or losers.
Now we see Romney going after Trump for calling other groups names, and questionable business practices; calling him a con artist and a failed businessman yet never giving specifics.
Keep in mind four years ago Romney praised Trump for his great business acumen, fine patriotism, and high standards while seeking Trumps endorsement.
“Wait!” supporters say, “It isn’t the same.” Sorry, folks, that’s parsing words ala Bill Clinton. It’s the pot calling the kettle black and seems a little smarmy at the least.
Even more troubling is seeing a very animated Romney popping up everywhere filled with passion. Where was this same Romney the last month of his campaign against Obama in 2012? If Romney had this passion then he’d now be running for reelection and Donald Trump would be a moot point! But he’s not.
Romney’s also uncharacteristically calling Trump terrible names while saying Trump is an awful person for calling other candidates names. So why is Romney doing all this now? It’s not that he’s promoting any candidate because, he says he’s not.
So what is Romney’s end game? The #NeverTrump crusade isn’t a strategy. It’s not even worthy of a school yard game. Never heard of “Tag, you’re not it.”
No, the end game is one I suspected in November of 2014. About that time I hosted one of Romney’s closest confidents in my office where after our business was concluded we discussed Romney’s possible run for the presidency. He said Ann was totally against it, and Mitt was brushing it off.
He suggested, however, that Mitt did feel that he was born for the presidency with the circumstances of having had a father as a governor and presidential contender, as well as having had great opportunities for education and financial and business training. His friend said that the loss in 2012 took a toll on the whole family. He said Ann and Mitt had not yet recovered.
He asked what I thought and I was none too gentle. I suggested he give Mitt some reading material on the life of Winston Churchill who had not been blessed with such a good father or mother – rather poor ones in fact – but who felt he had been destined to lead his nation. Defeat never deterred him from his destiny. It rolled off him like a snow flake on a heated oil slicker.
I predicted the Potomac Fever wasn’t out of Mitt’s blood, that he actually wanted to run again but would not put up with another bruising primary run. The only way he would consider running for president would be if the party elites came to him with all of the fraction leaders in tow, calling on him to unite the party. He would not deal with the humiliating challenge of the evangelicals and wishy-washy purest who thought him not conservative enough (a charge level against Trump today).
I figured that would mean the field of hopeful candidates would have to winnow itself out until there was no clear winning candidate for the convention and he’d step in at the last minute when he could be nominated by acclimation, uniting the party.
And that, my friends, is what it looks exactly like he’s doing. He’s just doing it a little earlier than I thought because Trump’s rapid rise has scared him. It hasn’t bothered Mitt that Trump is saying or doing what he’s doing… it bothers him that Trump is actually catching on with millions of voters! Mitt Romney had to strike hard and strong now or Trump would gain too many adherents and could never be stopped.
However, it may be too late. Right now Trump is highly favored in the east coast and rust belt states that are winner-take all states for delegates, along with California. Add those to states where he currently has a lead that would assure Trump enough first places and a bunch of second place showings in proportional states for the 1237 delegates needed to win the nomination before the convention.
For the anti-Trumps, Romney’s efforts may slow momentum just enough to prevent Trump from getting enough delegates. That would mean that at the Republican Convention no candidate would have the majority of delegates on the first round and someone can nominate Mitt Romney – likely Marco Rubio. A deal would then be cut with Ted Cruz to urge his delegates to support Romney. In exchange, Ted Cruz would be named the VP so that the Romney-Cruz ticket would win on the second ballot.
But, folks, that is a disaster waiting to happen. It sounds great in the script room in Hollywood or the notorious backroom, but it will fracture the party and open the door to the Democrat. The millions of Trump supporters will walk out of the convention. They will feel like the party elite have rigged the system. Rather than get behind the Romney-Cruz ticket, they’ll stay home. Romney will have no room to talk because right now he’s setting the example by saying he would write in a candidate rather than vote for Trump. In additions, evangelicals will still hold Mitt’s Mormonism against him and conservatives will not find him conservative enough.
I did want Romney in 2012 if for no other reason than to see what would happen if their bishop called the Romneys to be nursery leaders.
So Romney truly has me stumped in 2016. I see what he’s doing, but I see no successful end game unless Hillary Clinton is indicted. Perhaps that is what Romney is counting on.