If you thought the politics of 2018 were strange, buckle up, because 2019 is already off to a bizarre start.
Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is back in the spotlight seven years after losing to Democrat Barack Obama. Romney is finally headed to Washington, this time as the senator-elect from Utah.
For years, the statesman-like Romney was seen as a reliable if boring face of conservatism. If anything, he came across as too nice during his 2012 bid for the White House. But now it looks like the gloves — or is that mittens? — are coming off.
In an Op-Ed published by The Washington Post, Romney blasted the sitting president from his own party. “The Trump presidency made a deep descent in December,” the former governor of Massachusetts wrote, adding that “the president has not risen to the mantle of the office.”
The opinion piece didn’t sit well with many conservatives, and now even Romney’s own niece is pushing back. On Wednesday, GOP Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel used Twitter to push back against the incoming senator.
“(President Donald Trump) is attacked and obstructed by the MSM media and Democrats 24/7,” the chairwoman wrote. Then she took the gloves off.
“For an incoming Republican freshman senator to attack (President Trump) as their first act feeds into what the Democrats and media want and is disappointing and unproductive,” McDaniel pointed out.
POTUS is attacked and obstructed by the MSM media and Democrats 24/7. For an incoming Republican freshman senator to attack @realdonaldtrump as their first act feeds into what the Democrats and media want and is disappointing and unproductive. https://t.co/ArhI7Bi7bo
— Ronna McDaniel (@GOPChairwoman) January 2, 2019
It was clear that “incoming Republican freshman senator” was referring to Romney, in a way that reminded the nation that although he has name recognition, the 2012 loser was starting over from the bottom rung. Indeed, the senator-elect isn’t even sworn in until Thursday.
That opinion piece brought scorn from some surprising voices, including Senator Rand Paul, a libertarian conservative who has been critical of Trump in the past. This week, Paul actually defended the president and pointed out that Trump has moved key conservative issues forward, while Romney couldn’t.
Like other Big Government Republicans who never liked Reagan, Mitt Romney wants to signal how virtuous he is in comparison to the President. Well, I’m most concerned and pleased with the actual conservative reform agenda @realDonaldTrump has achieved.
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) January 2, 2019
“It’s a big mistake,” Senator Paul told The Washington Examiner. “I just don’t think the president deserves to have a new senator coming in attacking his character.”
For his part, Trump himself was even more blunt about calling out the former presidential hopeful.
Here we go with Mitt Romney, but so fast! Question will be, is he a Flake? I hope not. Would much prefer that Mitt focus on Border Security and so many other things where he can be helpful. I won big, and he didn’t. He should be happy for all Republicans. Be a TEAM player & WIN!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 2, 2019
“Here we go with Mitt Romney, but so fast! Question will be, is he a Flake?” the president posted on social media, referencing outgoing moderate Republican Jeff Flake.
“I hope not. Would much prefer that Mitt focus on Border Security and so many other things where he can be helpful,” Trump continued.
“I won big, and he didn’t. He should be happy for all Republicans,” the president scolded. “Be a TEAM player & WIN!”
It looks like a major power struggle is brewing inside the beltway, with establishment players like Romney — not to mention the numerous administration officials who have burned their bridges to Trump — positioning themselves to challenge the president.
But, as Ronna Romney McDaniel astutely pointed out, this clash may be exactly what the left wants, and the complete opposite of what is good for conservatives.
She’s absolutely right on this point: Mitt Romney calling out the president before he has even entered the Senate only gives ammunition to Democrats and the increasingly liberal media. No matter what, 2019 is going to be bizarre.
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