early and often

Trump Ally Mike Lee Begs for Mitt Romney’s Endorsement on TV

Photo: Tristan Wheelock/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Mike Lee, the senior senator from Utah, was not expecting a close fight for reelection this year. But as the midterms draw closer and polls show his lead waning to just four points against independent candidate Evan McMullin (with 12 percent of voters undecided), Lee is now scrambling for endorsements from Republicans — above all, from his Senate colleague Mitt Romney.

In an appearance on Fox News on Wednesday night, after Tucker Carlson said Romney is “actively trying” to keep Democrats in control of the Senate, Lee appealed directly to his fellow senator to endorse him for the benefit of Republicans nationwide: “I’m asking him here again, tonight, right now. Mitt, if you’d like to protect the Republican majority … please get onboard, help me win reelection.” It was sort of a strange venue for pleading to Romney, given that Carlson’s show has condemned him for years

Normally, it wouldn’t be too hard for a senator to secure an endorsement from a colleague in the same party. But Lee has spent years working directly against Romney in the Senate, voting against the gun-safety and semiconductor-manufacturing bills Romney helped pass this year and calling the bipartisan infrastructure bill Romney worked on “an orgiastic convulsion of federal spending.”

If that weren’t enough, Lee has fawned over Romney’s most stalwart enemy in the Republican Party: Donald Trump. Although he eventually voted to certify the 2020 election, Lee said he was spending “14-hour days” in the weeks after the election looking for a way to appoint alternate electors to put Trump back into office. Romney, however, angrily voted to convict Trump of inciting insurrection on January 6 — the second time he had voted to convict him in an impeachment trial. Lee voted to exonerate Trump both times.

Just in case the TV hit didn’t work, Republican senators have been pressuring Romney in anonymous quotes provided to The Federalist. “We should not have to be worried about Utah in any way,” a Republican senator said last month. “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.”

As he weighs whether to get behind the national party, Romney’s decision on the matter could be influenced by Lee’s historically awful status in supporting Utah’s Republican senators. In 2010, Lee won his first Senate seat after working to oust a three-term senator at the party convention. In 2012, he refused to endorse Orrin Hatch in a difficult race for the long-standing Republican. And in 2018, he refused to endorse Mitt Romney.

Trump Ally Mike Lee Begs for Mitt Romney’s Endorsement on TV