Prior to the impeachment vote on Wednesday, Utah Senator Mitt Romney was a reliable, if cordial, intra-party heel for President Trump and his most fervent supporters. After becoming the only senator to ever vote to convict a president of their own party in an impeachment trial, Romney may have lost the support of a broad swath of the Republican base for the remainder of his time in politics.
Though the president did not make any public statements chastising Romney or boasting of vindication — saving those sentiments for his press conference tomorrow in which he will discuss “our Country’s VICTORY on the Impeachment Hoax!” — he did post a video accidentally making Romney appear much cooler than he is. (See: sunglasses.)
Donald Trump Jr., an emissary of the family popular among the president’s base, was a little more explicit in a post on Instagram, calling Romney “a pussy.” Trump’s eldest son also expressed a sentiment common among Republican critics of the Utah senator, claiming that the vote was one of jealousy stemming from his 2012 presidential loss to Obama:
Jim Jordan had a simpler analysis of Romney’s decision, calling it a “wrong, wrong, wrong move.” Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel also diverged from Romney, who is her uncle: “This is not the first time I’ve disagreed with Mitt, and I imagine it will not be the last. The bottom line is President Trump did nothing wrong, and the Republican Party is more united than ever behind him. I, along with the GOP, stand with President Trump.” Perhaps the most interesting reaction came from Newt Gingrich, considering that he is comparing Romney’s ideological inconsistency to a president who has changed his party affiliation five times:
The past two GOP presidential candidates have had a tumultuous relationship over the past decade. In 2012, as Trump pushed the racist birther conspiracy, he endorsed Romney in the 2012 primary: “He’s not going to allow bad things to continue to happen to this country that we all love.” Romney did not extend that kindness to Trump four years later: “If we Republicans choose Donald Trump as our nominee, the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished,” he said in May 2016. That didn’t stop him from pursuing a cabinet position in the “diminished” Trump presidency, which led to an embarrassing and enduring picture at Jean-Georges in midtown. By 2018, the feud had cooled, and Trump endorsed Romney during his easy-street bid for Utah’s open Senate seat. But by October 2019, as Romney condemned Trump’s open-air call for more high crimes, the conflict was hot again. In response to Romney’s critique of his request that China and Ukraine investigate the Bidens, Trump tweeted:
It appears that the 72-year-old senator will now face the ire of the president and his allies for the remainder of his political career. But that is just fine with Romney, who seems to be more concerned with his legacy than the average GOP leader. In an interview with The Atlantic published on Wednesday, he responded to a report speculating that he may be up for another presidential run in 2024, which caused him to “erupt in laughter.” In response to the question, Romney said, “Yes! That’s it! They caught me! “Look at the base I have! It’s going to be at least 2 or 3 percent of the Republican Party. As goes Utah, so goes the nation!” Though, according to one recent poll, Trump is now more popular than Romney for the first time in the Beehive state, the senator has almost five years to prove his mettle before reelection. It may take longer for the whole of the Republican Party to determine if Romney’s decision proves him to be a man of “moral courage” as Adam Schiff suggested, or something closer to Donald Trump Jr.’s astute observation.