Utah is abuzz with rumors and anxiety over the possibility of a Senate run from former governor of Massachusetts and Holladay, Utah’s own (according to his recent Twitter edit), Mitt Romney. Romney has yet to declare candidacy, but according to a poll on Thursday from radio host Rod Arquette, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee’s favorability among Utahns approximates 60%.
His intentions remain a mystery, but should he toss his hat into the ring, Utahns would face a far more compelling question: which Mitt Romney will we see?
That could depend entirely on his audience.
Utah is a strange place politically. The more I participate in local politics, the more I realize that most Utahns care little, if at all, about policy. Their main concern is personality — and I can prove it.
According to Conservative Review’s Liberty Scorecard, Utah’s federal representation boasts the largest spread within the same party: a 71% gap between Senator Mike Lee’s 100% rating and Senator Orrin Hatch’s dismal 29%. As for Utah’s remaining representatives, Chris Stewart comes in 2nd place with a 70% score, followed by Mia Love with 62% and Rob Bishop with 60%. Recently elected Representative John Curtis is too fresh to merit a rating, but his predecessor, Jason Chaffetz, amassed a score of 78%.
In other words, the same electorate is voting overwhelmingly for candidates with wildly differing philosophies. But the common thread is easy to find: niceness.
Utah may be a traditionally red state, but it’s also a caring state. And when the two come into apparent conflict, Utahn’s typically opt for the latter.
Mitt Romney’s image of clean-cut benevolence is deeply ingrained in the Beehive State’s collective psyche, which is why he can garner a comfortable majority in favorability without hinting at any policy whatsoever — besides his obvious disdain for President Trump.
In fact, Romney’s renewed prominence in Utah most notably stems from his 2016 speech at the University of Utah, during which he rightly condemned then-candidate Trump’s character and personal history. Trump’s lifelong moral despotism and his abrasive conduct on the campaign trail were deep causes of concern for stalwart Utahns, who accordingly panned Trump in the primary (13.82%) and reluctantly nudged him to victory in the general election (45.5%).
Now, a week following Trump’s “bleep-hole” comments about Haiti and African countries in favor of places like Norway and South Korea — comments Mia Love has already condemned — Mitt Romney is again perfectly poised to emerge as Trump’s foil.
But unfortunately, his chances in Utah have little to do with policy.
Now that we know our audience, we’re brought back to the initial question: which Mitt Romney will we see? Whether you like Romney as a person but dislike him as a politician, vice versa, both, or neither, his long-standing reputation as a flip-flopper is unarguably well deserved. From abortion and Reagan to guns and taxes, Romney’s history of political metamorphosis is scrutinously documented.
Not coincidentally, his progressive standpoints persisted throughout his governorship and Senate candidacy in left-leaning Massachusetts, while his conservative reformation occurred just in time for his presidential bids.
Of course, it’s possible that Romney was sincere in his numerous changes of heart — one thing people are entitled to is the evolution of their personal beliefs. But as this is politics, one should be very cautious in attributing motive, one way or another.
The problem is that while Romney painted himself as a Democrat Lite for Massachusetts and a red-blooded conservative for the RNC, there’s no telling what persona he might adopt for a Senate race in Utah beyond that of the “nice guy,” and in politics, words like “nice,” “caring,” and “compassionate” often mean social programs.
Ideological shifts aside, Romney is at best a pragmatist, not a constitutionalist, having proven his disregard for natural rights on matters of health care and abortion — Romneycare was as much a violation of rights on a state level as Obamacare is federally, and his “pro-life” position that states should have “the authority to decide whether they want to have abortion or not, state by state” exhibits ignorance of the sole purpose of the federal government: securing our unalienable rights, even in matters of state nullification.
In short, Mitt Romney is not good for Utah, nor is he good for liberty. At best, he would establish an elevated moral compass in terms of personal lifestyle, but that’s no excuse to squander freedom.
Romney would most likely amount to no more than another Jeff Flake — a well-meaning, moderate, Latter-day Saint Senator, a good man with strong values, who blatantly misunderstands the role of government and the cause of individual liberty.
This has nothing to do with objective opposition to Donald Trump. I applauded Romney’s speech at the University of Utah, and I’ve had plenty to say about Trump’s shortcomings over the past two years.
But the cult of personality is just as dangerous in one direction as another, and if Romney has plans to run for office in Utah, he’s found the perfect base to latch onto a “nice guy,” whatever he stands (or falls) for.