Utah Senatorial candidate Mitt Romney:
Thank you Mr. President for the support. I hope that over the course of the campaign I also earn the support and endorsement of the people of Utah.
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) February 20, 2018
Also Mitt Romney:
If Trump had said 4 years ago the things he says today about the KKK, Muslims, Mexicans, disabled, I would NOT have accepted his endorsement
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) March 3, 2016
What’s up here, aside from “Also Mitt Romney” flexibility being one of Mitt Romney’s calling cards? I think part of the answer can be found in the one sentence above that’s not about Trump.
Romney might have been able to get away with rebuffing Trump’s endorsement, or so the conventional wisdom would have it. Utah is very Republican, but weak on Trump. As of last month, only 70% of Utah GOPers approved of how Trump was doing his job; that’s still a lot of Utahns, but Romney seems more popular in the state than Trump.
To date, the main knock against Romney running for Senate — both from his democratic opponent and from in-state Trump supporters (including the UTGOP chair) — has been that Mitt is a carpetbagger. Romney sold his Utah home before his 2012 run (though he bought property there again in 2013).
Romney seems sensitive to the charge. At his first campaign event — a Utah county GOP dinner — he skipped a speech in favor of taking questions from the audience. He left the event alone in a pickup truck. He’s been visiting a dairy farm and a restaurant, not to mention door-knocking. Dare we call it a “listening tour”?
Utahns may or may not care a ton whether Romney accepted Trump’s endorsement. But you can bet Trump would care. (Indeed, one might speculate that Trump was sold on endorsing him because he knew it would put Mitt in an awkward position.) Had Romney rebuffed the endorsement, you can bet Trump would have enjoyed skewering him on Twitter and perhaps in the regular media.
A Romney-Trump fight is one of national politics. Romney is trying to run a local campaign. Not all politics are local, but Romney wants them to be in this case. So he accepts the endorsement on Twitter, which relieves him of having to answer questions directly or at length on camera, and he moves on.
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