With all the talk about Steve Bannon starting a “civil war” in the Republican Party, mostly by inspiring primary challenges to incumbent Republican senators, the latest rumors from Utah are kind of a good-news-bad-news story for the Breitbart News chieftain.
According to a new report from McKay Coppins, one of Bannon’s targets, Orrin Hatch, is telling friends back home that he’s definitely not running for reelection next year.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that Hatch’s reported retirement is being planned in synch with a move by Mitt Romney to succeed him. And Romney is by any measure a much bigger enemy of Bannon’s.
While Hatch’s office is denying he’s made any definitive decisions about his future plans (he probably doesn’t need any retirement talk while he’s in the middle of cracking heads to pass a major tax bill), the writing’s been on the wall for a while for the 83-year-old seven-term incumbent, who first won his seat after a campaign in which he attacked three-term incumbent Frank Moss for sticking around Washington too long.
A recent poll showed an emphatic 75 percent of Utah voters thinking Hatch should retire. He drew a serious primary challenge six years ago, and with or without Bannon’s involvement, he’ll draw one (or more) in 2018 if he does run.
And with or without Hatch’s blessing, Mitt Romney could probably walk to the GOP nomination if he wanted it. The same poll that showed Utah voters wanting Hatch to retire also showed Romney far ahead of Hatch and anyone else in a theoretical primary, with 57 percent against a large field where no one else got more than 13 percent. A different survey earlier this year showed Romney’s favorable/unfavorable rating among Utah Republicans at an unconquerable 83/15. He is without any question the most popular pol in the state.
In case you have forgotten, Romney has not exactly exhibited the kind of unqualified support for Donald Trump that Bannon is demanding from all GOP senators.
Mitt Romney called Donald Trump a “fraud” and “phony” whose words and actions are “degrading” to women, and whose policies would trigger a recession, make America less safe and foster an era of “trickle-down racism.”
That was in 2016. In 2017, Romney had this to say about Trump’s reaction to the violence in Charlottesville:
Whether he intended to or not, what he communicated caused racists to rejoice, minorities to weep, and the vast heart of America to mourn.
That’s certainly no more harsh than what Steve Bannon said about Romney at a time when the former Massachusetts senator was the GOP nominee for president:
This is a guy who avoided military duty in Vietnam; who has five sons who look like movie stars who have not served their country one day. Oh, but by the way all of them did their two years of Mormon missionary work — every one of them.
Yeah, that’s the kind of attack that will go over really well in Utah.
Bannon better take the state off his list of 2018 Senate “purge” targets.