State Party Chair’s Attack on Romney Is Sour Grapes, Not a Threat

Mitt Romney stands athwart Utah politics like a colossus, even if some old-school Republicans are annoyed about it. Photo: George Frey/Getty Images

For most politicians on the brink of announcing a race for the U.S. Senate, it would be a living nightmare to get attacked by their party’s state chairman.

For Mitt Romney, it’s just a minor annoyance.

Yes, I’m sure Romney would prefer that the sweet harmonics of his scheduled announcement of candidacy tomorrow had not been interrupted by Utah Republican state party chairman Rob Anderson’s hissy fit in an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune. Anderson basically called Mitt a carpetbagger (just like — gasp! — Hillary Clinton) who was end-running the party and disappointing all the fine Republicans who had been waiting for decades for Orrin Hatch to retire. Anderson also allowed as to how Mitt wasn’t on particularly good terms with the nation’s Republican president, either; this may have given some national folk the impression that he’s a Trump guy carrying MAGA water. But the impression I get is that he’s just an old-school Utah Republican making a last futile protest against what he calls a “Romney Machine” that’s about to roll over him.

From the day he was elected state party chairman last year, Anderson has been embroiled in a byzantine political and legal dispute over the Utah GOP’s traditional caucus/convention system — dominated by hard-core conservatives — for getting a spot on the primary ballot. He figures Romney will take advantage of a new option created by the state legislature to get on the ballot by petition. It reinforces Anderson’s sense that Romney thinks he’s too big for his party’s rituals:

Anderson says he’s reached out to Romney through intermediaries several times with zero luck.

“I haven’t heard a word from him,” says Anderson …

“It says his campaign doesn’t consider the Utah Republican Party an important part of his ability to win elections,” says Anderson. “I don’t understand that.”

This sounds a lot like sour grapes.

Polls have consistently shown Romney with a huge lead in a prospective Senate primary and general election. The most recent public survey from the University of Utah showed 85 percent of Utah Republicans favoring Romney, who also has a 64/19 lead over the presumptive Democratic candidate.

Anderson’s right that Romney’s not a Trump guy, but let’s remember this is a state where a #NeverTrump conservative independent candidate won 22 percent of the vote in 2016. And in the latest state-by-state polling from Morning Consult — which nationally showed the president enjoying a positive trend — Trump’s approval/disapproval ratio in Utah was 46/49.

Once Romney’s in the Senate race, it’s most definitely his to lose. And Republicans like Rob Anderson will either adjust or stay a mile away from this particular contest.

State GOP Chair’s Attack on Mitt Sour Grapes, Not a Threat