Remember Mitt Romney? The GOP’s 2012 presidential nominee didn’t do a great job of defeating Barack Obama, but now he’s trying to make up for it by attacking President Trump. Romney made the news this week with an op-ed for the Washington Post in which he claimed, “the President has not risen to the mantle of the office.” That’s an extraordinary thing for a senior Republican to say about a president from his own party, and it’s ruffled a few feathers. The POTUS isn’t taking it lying down, though, and within hours he delivered a stinging slapdown to the Utah senator.
Romney and Trump have never been the closest of political allies, with Romney saying in Tuesday’s op-ed that Trump hadn’t been his choice for the 2016 nomination. They did seem to be getting on better after the election, with the pair making some public appearances together and Trump even endorsing his former rival’s Senate bid last year. That all blew up this week though, when the failed candidate came out swinging at Trump’s presidency.
- The main criticisms in the WaPo op-ed was that Trump isn’t, in Romney’s opinion, demonstrating “the essential qualities of honesty and integrity” that a president needs. That didn’t go down too well, and several leading Republicans were quick to condemn Romney’s comments, but it was Trump himself who made the strongest response.
- Late Tuesday afternoon, the President, speaking to reporters at a Cabinet meeting, said he hopes Romney – who took up his Senate seat on Thursday – will be a team player. Trump said he’d expected some form of criticism, but was surprised it had come so quickly.
- What Trump didn’t do was bring himself down to Romney’s level and start throwing personal insults. Instead, he focused on the need for Republicans to work together as a team, pointing out that he’d supported Romney’s Senate bid despite the often bitter conflict between the two in 2016, when Romney gained the reputation of a “never-Trumper”. He went on to say he was glad Romney had won in Utah, a state with high levels of support for the current president.
- Trump did point out that if Romney had concentrated as hard on beating Obama as he has on attacking other Republicans he’d probably have won his own presidential race – after four years of Democrat mismanagement, he should have been pushing on an open door. Hopefully, Romney will get that message and, from now on, turn his considerable energy on his opponents instead of his allies.