Mitt Romney’s Refusal to Endorse Mike Lee Infuriates Senate Republicans

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 02: U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) speaks at a hearing of the Judiciary Committee examining issues facing prisons and jails during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic on Capitol Hill on June 02, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images)
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Sen. Mitt Romney’s (R-UT) decision not to endorse Sen. Mike Lee’s (R-UT) reelection bid has infuriated Senate Republicans and conservative activists.

Romney, Utah’s junior senator, has declined — and even refused — to endorse Lee’s reelection bid. Lee is the senior senator from Utah.

Senate Republicans are becoming increasingly alarmed by the decision, noting that even though Senate Republicans may have their differences on policy, they typically stand united against Republican opponents.

“I respect [Romney], and I understand that each state has its own dynamics, but I do not understand why he is remaining neutral,” one Republican senator said anonymously. “Whatever our differences, we all try to support each other around election time.”

Romney’s refusal to endorse Lee could boost his lead opponent during the Senate campaign, the Never Trumper and failed 2016 presidential candidate Evan McMullin. Romney’s move has put Senate Republicans on defense in a state that Lee should win handily.
“We should not have to be worried about Utah in any way. I don’t know what he thinks he’s doing, but it’s not going over well, particularly with the [senators] who are up for chairmanships,” another Senate Republican said.

Romney has claimed he could not endorse anyone in the race because he is friends with Lee and McMullin; however, as Mollie Hemingway of the Federalist, “it’s unclear why he thought his previously unannounced friendship with McMullin would be harmed by him supporting Republican incumbents and nominees, as all other Republicans do.”

Even the Washington Post‘s Henry Olsen rebuked Romney’s logic.

“That’s sweet, but party loyalty matters, too. It’s one thing to disagree within one’s own party; that’s what primaries are for. It’s another to say that one is going to stay out of a general election and essentially tell your own state’s voters that there’s no difference between your party’s nominee and someone backed by your party’s adversaries. If that’s friendship, Lee should start finding better friends,” Olsen wrote.

The Post also noted that Romney’s refusal to endorse Lee would serve as a “boon” for McMullin and make it “harder for Lee to consolidate the votes of moderate Republicans.”

This would allow for McMullin’s strategy to gain muster, which includes building a coalition of Democrats, independents, and Romney and his supporters, to take down the two-term Senate conservative.

Utah Democrats have endorsed McMullin’s bid to oust Lee even though he stated after the endorsement that he would not caucus with either Republicans or Democrats should he join ranks with Romney in the Senate.

Jessica Anderson, the president of the Heritage Action for America, said:

It is disappointing to see Senator Romney take a back seat in his in-state colleague’s race as Senator Mike Lee enjoys broad support from voters across Utah and the country. Conservatives should utilize every tool possible to take back the Senate, starting with supporting incumbent Senators in important races.

Romney’s decision to be Switzerland between his two friends, McMullin and Lee, has allowed McMullin to call Lee a “conman,” push “conspiracy theories” against Lee, and spread “disinformation” against Republicans.

For instance, McMullin has claimed that Lee has “betrayed the Constitution” by trying to “overturn Americans’ votes:

Rachel Bovard, the policy director for the Conservative Partnership Institute, noted that despite McMullin’s claim, Lee voted to certify the 2020 elections.

Dan Caldwell, the vice president for foreign policy at Stand Together, said, “The Never Trumper’s real issue with Mike Lee is that he isn’t a neoconservative in the mold of Mitt Romney and is a vocal critic of the security state.”

If Romney’s refusal to endorse Lee were to spoil the election in favor of McMullin, many of Romney’s colleagues would not become chairmen of various committees and would be less well-positioned to fight back against the Biden administration:

If McMullin and other Democrat-endorsed politicians were able to keep control of the Senate, that would mean Bernie Sanders would chair the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions rather than Rand Paul. Gary Peters would be the chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee instead of James Lankford. The powerful Judiciary Committee would be helmed by Dick Durbin, not Lindsey Graham. And Maria Cantwell, instead of Ted Cruz, would chair the Commerce Committee.

“If you’re not going to have the back of your colleague in your state who is a fellow Republican, how will I know you’ll have my back? It creates a certain amount of awkwardness in the conference as a whole,” said one senior Republican staffer who described his thinking concerning the GOP conference.

Sean Moran is a congressional reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @SeanMoran3


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