Enter Mitt

Ken AshfordElection 2020, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Yesterday, Mitt penned a scorching New Year’s Day attack on Trump in the Washington Post:

The Trump presidency made a deep descent in December. The departures of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, the appointment of senior persons of lesser experience, the abandonment of allies who fight beside us, and the president’s thoughtless claim that America has long been a “sucker” in world affairs all defined his presidency down.

It is well known that Donald Trump was not my choice for the Republican presidential nomination. After he became the nominee, I hoped his campaign would refrain from resentment and name-calling. It did not. When he won the election, I hoped he would rise to the occasion. His early appointments of Rex Tillerson, Jeff Sessions, Nikki Haley, Gary Cohn, H.R. McMaster, Kelly and Mattis were encouraging. But, on balance, his conduct over the past two years, particularly his actions last month, is evidence that the president has not risen to the mantle of the office.

It is not that all of the president’s policies have been misguided. He was right to align U.S. corporate taxes with those of global competitors, to strip out excessive regulations, to crack down on China’s unfair trade practices, to reform criminal justice and to appoint conservative judges. These are policies mainstream Republicans have promoted for years. But policies and appointments are only a part of a presidency.

To a great degree, a presidency shapes the public character of the nation. A president should unite us and inspire us to follow “our better angels.” A president should demonstrate the essential qualities of honesty and integrity, and elevate the national discourse with comity and mutual respect. As a nation, we have been blessed with presidents who have called on the greatness of the American spirit. With the nation so divided, resentful and angry, presidential leadership in qualities of character is indispensable. And it is in this province where the incumbent’s shortfall has been most glaring.

He then went on to attack Trump as hurting American prestige worldwide, as well as engaging in fiscal irresponsibility.

Romney, to be sworn in as Utah’s junior senator on Thursday, was of course the Republican Party’s 2012 presidential nominee, the WaPo op-ed could be seen as the opening salvo in a run against Trump in 2020.

Brad Parscale, Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, gave a tepid Twitter response…

… if only because of his meaningless (and misspelled phrase): “Jealously [sic] is a drink best served warm…” . In any event, I’m not sure sycophancy is the way to go. Then again, Parscale is a tech guy, and not so much of a campaign manager.

Trump then added his own critique:

I think Dems are also asking if Romney is a (Jeff) Flake, too. That is, a man somewhat anti-Trump in words but not in deeds (votes). Trump’s tweet urges Romney to be a team player, but cannot resist the dig (I won big and he didn’t — never mind the fact that Trump did not win big at all and got only 46.4% of the vote compared to Romney’s 47.2%

All this was followed by the Chairwoman of the GOP

… which is a very interesting tweet considering that she is Romney’s niece!

Many believe, with good reason, that Romney is planning to join the GOP furrowed brow club — the group of outspoken GOP politicians who speak against Trump, but do nothing because they fear his base. And maybe he will do that, but that seems a terrible strategy for a 2020 run. He needs to distinguish himself from Trump in a significant way — not just with rhetoric. I doubt he will move to the left on many issues, but he does have to take a stand here and there.

It is all part of a larger question about how much Republicans are willing to stand behind Trump.

Watch this space.

UPDATE — Looks like the RNC is willing to cheat in order to protect Trump

Mitt Romney’s scorching critique of President Trump in a New Year’s Day op-ed has sparked a call from within the Republican National Committee to change party rules to protect Trump from any long-shot primary challenge in 2020.

The RNC committeeman representing the Virgin Islands late Tuesday emailed fellow elected members of the national party urging them to change the rules when they convene in New Mexico for their annual winter meeting later this month. Republicans are confident that Trump would hold off any primary challenger, but worry the campaign would derail his re-election.

“Look, the political history is clear. No Republican president opposed for re-nomination has ever won re-election,” RNC committeeman Jevon O.A. Williams said in a email obtained by the Washington Examiner. “Unfortunately, loopholes in the rules governing the 2020 re-nomination campaign are enabling these so-called Republicans to flirt with the possibility of contested primaries and caucuses.”

Romney, to be sworn in as Utah’s junior senator on Thursday, was the Republican Party’s 2012 presidential nominee, and is seen as an acute threat to Trump in the wake of his op-ed in the Washington Post. Williams said Romney or someone like him would complicate Trump’s 2020 campaign.

“While President Trump would win re-nomination it wouldn’t come quick and it wouldn’t be inexpensive. Any contested re-nomination campaign—even a forlorn hope—would only help Democrats,” Williams wrote. “Accordingly, I am asking for your support to take the unprecedented step of amending the rules to close loopholes in the re-nomination campaign, including Rule 40.”

Trump would be the overwhelming favorite in any contested 2020 primary. But Republican National Committee rules make it relatively easy for a well-funded challenger to win enough votes to have his or her vote placed in nomination on the floor of the party’s nominating convention in Charlotte.

Under current rules, a primary challenger can get a vote on the convention floor if he or she wins a plurality of delegates in five states or territories (Washington, D.C. can also be one of the five).

Existing rules technically prohibit any changes to these regulations inside of a presidential cycle, which begins after the midterms. But as a private organization, the RNC could in fact make any changes it wants at any time.

Williams wants the RNC to change the rules, endorse Trump and declare him the de-facto nominee, heading off any primary challenge. But such a move, while possible, could be complicated and generate criticism that the president is engaging in the sort of establishment election-rigging he decried on the campaign trail in 2016.

Election-rigging? Not above this Republican party.

UPDATE #2 — Romney on CNN just now

Doesn’t sound like he is staking positions against Trump.

And here it is….

Okay then. I’m an idiot.