How many decisive rejections can a veteran national political figure experience at the hands of voters before that politician takes the hint and walks off into the sunset with some small measure of dignity still intact?
Willard “Mitt” Romney seems intent on testing the limits of that proposition by floating the story with friends in the conservative media that he’s toying with the idea of running for the U.S. Senate seat of octogenarian Orrin Hatch of Utah, who is expected to announce his decision to decline a run for yet another term next year. Evidently, Romney’s last electoral humiliation—the embarrassing rout by a weakened and vulnerable President Obama in 2012—was not enough to convince him that his fellow citizens just aren’t that into him. Even after taking the helm of the good ship Never-Trump last year to ostentatiously and piously declare that Donald J. Trump was neither an authentic conservative nor fit for public office (rich coming from a guy who’s taken just about every position on every issue imaginable), Romney seems to think that the American public awaits his latest judgments on policy issues and political strategy with baited breath.
They manifestly don’t, and the fact that Romney continues to seek a leading role on the stage of public affairs after two solid decades of being spurned by the American public at the state and national level testifies to a messianic egotism that borders on full-blown psychosis. Romney has now even nudged out Hillary Clinton as the most prominent public figure who refuses to take “no” for an answer: while Hillary continues to blame everyone but herself for her defeat last November, she at least has the good sense to know that continuing to foist herself on voters would only succeed in making her the butt of even more ridicule than she already receives. Romney, on the other hand, seems to believe that if only he repackages himself yet again in a new version (Mitt 4.0, perhaps?) we will all finally recognize that the 70-year old opportunistic shape-shifter is the change we’ve been waiting for. That’s utterly remarkable hubris coming from a guy with a losing streak to rival Ralph Nader—without Nader’s integrity.
While Romney’s prissy sense of entitled ascendance to the Senate is little more than the same posture he struck as the lackluster GOP standard bearer in 2012, Team Trump needs to see the move as the grave threat that it is. Heavily-Mormon Utah is perhaps the only place in the nation where Romney could consider yet another “comeback.” But unfortunately for President Trump and his supporters, the possibility of Mitt using Utah as a launching pad back to national prominence can’t be simply dismissed as a sad joke. The possibility of Romney weaseling his way into the U.S. Senate should alarm those who want to see the president’s agenda move forward, and they should mobilize to make sure that his latest ambition is killed in its crib. His work to derail Trump’s candidacy last cycle in key battleground states cost the president dearly by suppressing the Republican vote, and coupled with Mitt’s messianic ego that seems impervious to political reality, a perch in the Senate would make him a serious impediment to Trump’s re-election bid in 2020.
In one year, non-politician Donald Trump accomplished what Willard Romney has spent his life trying to achieve, but make no mistake: should Romney somehow hoodwink the voters in Utah the way he hoodwinked the others in Massachusetts, Trump would have an enemy in the 2020 election cycle who would attempt to take leadership of the anti-Trump factions in the GOP.
Romney’s insatiable vainglory survived even Trump’s ritual humiliation of dangling the Secretary of State position in front of his face, as if to demonstrate yet again Mitt’s willingness to grovel for the sake of attaining power. The man has demonstrated again and again that he will literally say or do anything to satisfy his ambition, pandering so transparently that he gives opportunism a bad name. But no matter what Romney says now to reposition himself away from the Never-Trump brand in an effort to regain public prominence, Trumpites need to recognize Romney as the grave menace he is, and put the stake through his political heart once and for all by funding a credible alternative for the seat in Utah. For those with the president’s political interests in mind, this should be a top priority.
Robert Wasinger served in senior advisory and liaison roles in President Donald Trump‘s campaign and transition team, after extensive experience on Capitol Hill.