Johnny Cash wrote that he heard, as it were, the noise of thunder. Behold a white horse. The noise of thunder in this case is Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, at the age of 83, announcing that he will not seek re-election this year. That immediately sparked the not-so-secret interest of Mitt Romney in running for Hatch’s seat. Behold a white horse.
If Romney were to actually run, he would almost assuredly win the seat. There is little to no doubt about it. A Democratic opponent would be inconsequential in Utah, as most likely would be a Steve Bannon-endorsed challenger from the right.
The question is: Why on Earth would Romney want to run?
This isn’t a question coming from the Trump wing of the GOP and a populist base who believes – in error – that Romney just never fought hard enough in 2012 to beat an historic incumbent president.
It’s also not a question coming from the Never Trump wing, which believes Romney would be a check on some of President Trump’s bullish impulsiveness that we witness on Twitter daily.
But Romney has everything to lose and only a binder full of headaches to gain if he runs for the Senate. These would come daily from media asking Romney ad nauseam of his thoughts on the president’s tweets or gaffes. The headaches would come from the left and opposing Democratic senators.
Romney would cease to become an honorary check on Trump for the perpetually concerned the moment he voted for a policy in the Senate – or for a policy he pushed himself as a presidential candidate and governor – that President Trump then signed into law.
Since he was defeated by President Obama in the 2012 presidential race, Romney has experienced a sort of legacy renaissance, particularly among Trump opponents. His stock has risen with both Republicans and Democrats.
Romney remains more popular than Hillary Clinton, probably because he accepted his election loss with quiet dignity and humility. Unlike Clinton, he didn’t drag the country through a nine-month pity party, blaming everything and everyone but himself for his loss – while at the same time wink-winking to anyone on a street corner who will still listen about actually winning the election.
Romney retired from politics with the satisfaction that his words during the 2012 campaign – such as warning the country of Russia as our No. 1 geopolitical threat – are now taken seriously and accepted by many Americans. President Obama, along with much of the media, scoffed at Romney’s warning about Russia. Time has shown they were terribly wrong.
In another example, Romney warned of a power vacuum in the Middle East created by withdrawing U.S. forces too hastily from the region. President Obama did so anyway, and ISIS was born in Syria and Iraq. Again, Romney was proven right.
Remember “binders full of women” – the awkward Romney phrase that turned into a meme that trended to the top of Twitter with the help of snarking journalists and celebrities? Romney made the comment to show he worked hard to hire women for top jobs in state government when he was governor of Massachusetts.
It seemed funny at the time. But now we know that many of those in the media and Hollywood who laughed at Romney’s phrasing turned their back on sexism and sexual misconduct occurring within their own professional and social circles. Now the idea of a CEO, studio executive or TV news producer having scores of resumes of women to choose from in light of the #MeToo movement doesn’t seem so hilarious.
Almost no losing candidate in modern presidential history has been able to spike the I-told-you-so football like Mitt Romney over the current crisis of confidence facing the country, both at home and abroad. And yet he still refuses to do so.
All the good feelings Romney has generated from the American people would go out the window the moment he would be sworn in as the next senator from Utah. Romney would most likely be entering a fractured Congress, perhaps with Democrats having majority control in both the Senate and House after the November elections.
A moral voice in the minority would be a breath of fresh air and a check on both parties, but it would not heal the political climate. Romney would coast through his election, only to hit a buzzsaw of “But Trumpism.” He did himself no favors reaching out for Donald Trump’s endorsement in 2012, only to speak out against him in 2016. He would certainly be reminded of daily if he were to become a senator.
Many pundits now regret obsessing over trivial issues with Romney, in the wake of what they view as a real existential threat to the office posed by President Trump. These issues included Romney’s wife’s car elevator, Romney’s juvenile haircut pranks and the way he traveled with his dog.
A lot of pundits would all turn on a dime and rehash this ridiculousness. But no matter how many people see Mitt Romney as the man on the white horse, he will never be that man.
In a better world, we would be entering the second term of President Romney’s presidency. North Korea would not be threatening nuclear war thanks to years of the United States turning the other cheek. Russian President Vladimir Putin would not have been granted the “flexibility” to invade Crimea and U.S. government computer servers. ObamaCare would most likely have been replaced and all this would have been done without a daily Twitter fight. But we don’t live in that world.
Mitt Romney is exactly the hero the Senate deserves, but not the one it needs right now. My advice to him is to stay tanned, stay rested. Focus on the family. In private among the ones you love, don’t hesitate to tell them you were right. Throw an endorsement behind a chosen candidate and rest assured that your legacy is safe. But don’t run, Mitt. It’s not worth it.