Thursday, January 4, 2018

Will Mitt Romney suffer the same fate as Orrin Hatch?

Among other sources, the Huffington Post reports that Utah Senator Orrin Hatch Announces Retirement. The news has reignited speculation that 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney will seek the seat.

It would be a thorn in Trump’s side if Romney runs for Hatch’s seat. The 2012 GOP nominee has continually spoken out against the president, criticizing his comments about white supremacists over the summer. In a March 2016 speech during the Republican presidential primaries, Romney went after Trump as a “phony” and a “fraud.”

What are Romney’s chances? FiveThirtyEight asks Senator Mitt Romney? and provides an assessment.

The 2018 midterms got a bit more exciting on Tuesday. The longest serving Republican senator in American history, Orrin Hatch of Utah, announced that he would not run for re-election. His retirement is unlikely to provide Democrats with much of an opportunity to win another Senate seat, but the door is now wide open for Trump nemesis and 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who has reportedly told people he would enter the race if Hatch retired.

Here’s my synopsis of the 538 analysis. Utah is really, really Republican, so any Republican candidate has that edge. Romney is very popular and thus would have an even bigger advantage. Romney’s criticism of Trump played well because of Trump’s YUGE unpopularity. “In short: If Romney runs, he’d be as big a favorite as favorites get.”

While it is unclear who will be strongest in a convention setting in 2018, widespread appeal is now more important for a candidate to win the nomination. If the polls are correct, Romney has the popularity necessary to win a nomination through a primary. And then go on to win the general.

So let us assume that Romney runs and wins. He would have an opportunity in the Senate to work across the aisle to do the work of governing. Remember that Obama-care had its roots in Romney-care. However, he also faces, possibly, the fate of Orrin Hatch.

Michael Tomasky, a columnist for the Daily Beast traces The Sad Trajectory of Orrin Hatch in a NY Times op-ed.

When Orrin Hatch’s career in the United States Senate ends on Jan. 3, 2019, it will have spanned an audacious 42 years, or seven full terms. Assuming he completes his final term, Mr. Hatch will become the sixth-longest-serving senator ever.

His service truly has been epochal. Unfortunately, the epoch has not been a happy one. Mr. Hatch’s career reflects the sad trajectory of our times, from a Congress where legislators had differences but actually tried to legislate, to one in which legislators — especially Republicans, terrified of facing a well-financed primary from the right — do nothing of the sort.

Hatch was an unknown back in 1976 when he challenged then Sen. Frank Moss and won. He then began an illustrious legislative career.

… he energized the state’s conservative primary voters and won. In the general, he bested a befuddled Moss, who’d never given a moment’s thought to the prospect that Mr. Hatch could emerge as his opponent.

Today, a senator sent to Washington on those credentials would be expected to want to burn the place down. But Mr. Hatch did what senators did in those days: He governed. Across party lines. His most famous association, of course, was with Edward M. Kennedy. They worked together on biomedical research, child care, AIDS and civil rights for the disabled.

Most important, they teamed up in 1997 on the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, the same program that’s on the block today. A New York Times reporter, taking stock of Mr. Hatch’s decision to work with Kennedy on the bill, wrote at the time that “Senator Hatch noted he had recently been described as a ‘latter-day liberal’ in National Review, a conservative journal. And he did not reject that description.”

Then the Tea Party happened.

… Hatch survived into 2009, when he spoke movingly at Kennedy’s funeral. His personal love for his dear friend and the Kennedy family showed through palpably. But times were changing. In 2010, the Tea Party wave swept the Republican Party. One who drowned in it was Mr. Hatch’s Utah colleague, the Republican Senator Robert Bennett, defeated by the Tea Party-backed Mike Lee in a primary fight that shook other establishment conservatives to their core.

Mr. Hatch was up for re-election in 2012. He faced a Tea Party challenger, Dan Liljenquist. He knew what he had to do. He opposed virtually every item on Barack Obama’s agenda. He ratcheted up the rhetoric. In 2007, Freedom Works, a right-wing pressure group, rated him at an abysmal 25 percent. By 2011, Mr. Hatch had brought that up to 88 percent. He’d burnished his right-wing credentials enough so that Sarah Palin endorsed him in 2012. He beat Mr. Liljenquist nearly two to one.

I remember in 2013 some liberals thought, well, now that he’s survived that, and this is possibly his last term, maybe he’ll go back to being the old Hatch. Uh … no. He had once said Merrick Garland would be a “consensus nominee” for the Supreme Court. By 2016, the senator, a member of the Judiciary Committee, was a key figure in arguing that Mr. Garland didn’t deserve a hearing. He once cared about the power of tech monopolies. Last year, that changed.

All this culminated in an exchange with the Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, last November at a committee meeting where the tax cut was being discussed, when Mr. Brown, between the lines, was trying to remind Mr. Hatch of the legislator he was 20 years ago, and Mr. Hatch didn’t seem very interested. “I’ve got a reputation of having worked together with Democrats,” Mr. Hatch said.

“Let’s start with CHIP,” Mr. Brown replied, referring to the children’s health program.

“We’re not starting with CHIP.”

Tomasky is right. It’s sad. The prospects for Romney may be as bad. Tomasky concludes:

It’s not that Mr. Hatch is a bad man. He’s surely a decent man, trapped in an indecent dynamic. And now, the smart bet is that he will be replaced by another decent man, Mitt Romney. Mr. Romney once called President Trump “a phony, a fraud.” The arc of Mr. Hatch’s career suggests that Mr. Romney will use different nouns two years hence, if not much sooner.

Remember that Trump slimes everything and everybody he touches. In Trumpworld, up is down, lies are truth, and most people do not deserve respect. And Trump sucks in supporters and supplicants only to eventually humiliate all of them. So it was when Trump dangled the possibility of a cabinet position in front of Romney. Here is a snippet from my blog post about that back in December 2016, quoting from an article by John Cassidy in the New Yorker,

Romney humiliated
Romney's humiliation by Trump

… What if Romney, after having gone back on his earlier statements and courted Trump so publicly, gets passed over anyway? Well, his humiliation will be complete.

Even now, it is pretty far advanced. During the dinner at Jean-Georges, Drew Angerer, a photographer with Getty Images News, was admitted to the restaurant, where he took a picture of the two erstwhile foes. Trump had a sly-looking grin on his face. Romney appeared to be grimacing. “Donald Trump looks like a cat that caught a mouse and is now batting it around with its paws until it dies,” Taegan Goddard, the publisher of Political Wire, wrote on Twitter. “Romney is the mouse.”

Romney did not get that position. All his debasement did was get him humiliation. If he goes down that road again, he will end up as did Sen. Orrin Hatch

"You are one heckuva leader’: After tax vote, Sen. Orrin Hatch says Trump may become the best president ever, reports the Salt Lake Tribune.

Leader of the dark side
Leader of the dark side

“Mr. President, I have to say you are living up to everything I thought you would,” Hatch said. “You are one heckuva leader, and we’re all benefiting from it.

“We are making headway. This is just the beginning,” Hatch continued. “If you stop and think about it, this president hasn’t even been in office for a year and look at all the things he’s been able to get done. I hope we get behind him every way we can and we’ll get this country turned around in ways that will benefit the whole world.”

You gotta wonder (when you get done retching). Is that the fate facing Senator Mitt Romney? Will he go over to the dark side? Or is he already there?

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