Monday March 18th, 2019 9:56PM

Now a candidate, Romney appears to embrace Trump presidency

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

PARK CITY, Utah (AP) — On the edge of a mountaintop in Utah, it's getting complicated for Mitt Romney.

With the sun setting over his shoulder, the former Republican presidential nominee and would-be senator tells his audience, gathered on the patio of a resort, that President Donald Trump will win a second term. Romney also says that annual $1 trillion deficits under Trump are "highly stimulative." And ignoring Trump's new trade tariffs, Romney says there's nothing already on the horizon that will push the U.S. into a recession.

Once the face of the "Never Trump" movement, Romney appears to be embracing Trump's presidency as he re-enters national politics, this time as a 71-year-old candidate for the Senate from Utah.

Perhaps no Republican leader demonstrates the transformation of the modern-day party better than Romney.

Two years ago, Romney attacked Trump's very same policies on trade, spending and national security. Today, like other candidates across the country this election season, Romney is taking an approach that suggests there's no room for an outspoken Trump critic in Republican Party.

"Whatever the disagreements have been, I think they've put them behind each other," said Anthony Scaramucci, a former Romney fundraiser who briefly served as Trump's communications director.

Scaramucci was among dozens of high-profile business and political leaders at Romney's annual summit in Park City this weekend. Outspoken Trump supporters were scarce.

The president has forgiven Romney, Scaramucci said, and Romney "can be an ally."

It may not be that simple.

Many Romney loyalists, in comments in the hallways of the Stein Eriksen Lodge, said Romney remains deeply concerned about Trump's policies and leadership style. For many among the Trump faithful, Romney will never be forgiven for his speech two years ago when he laid out in stark terms his case for why a Trump presidency would be a disaster.

Publicly, the two men have been respectful to each other, at a distance, since the 2016 election.

Trump endorsed Romney's Senate bid on Twitter earlier this year. And on Friday, the president had this to say after learning Romney predicted a 2020 Trump victory: "Mitt's a straight shooter — whether people love him or don't love him."

The backhanded compliment is evidence of the lingering tension between Republican heavyweights who represent different wings of the GOP.

Romney is the face of the establishment. He spent much of the past decade working to strengthen the conservative movement and elect Republicans. Trump has taken over the GOP by attacking its own leaders at times with a brand of populism that defies long-cherished conservative positions on trade, fiscal discipline and foreign policy.

Romney must make it through the June 26 primary and the general election in November, but most see it as a foregone conclusion that he will succeed retiring GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch in this Republican stronghold.

The focus, therefore, has already begun to shift toward Romney's fit in Trump's GOP once he gets to Washington.

"There are issues he wants to dive deep on — and I don't think he'll be bashful in taking on Donald Trump or (Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell for that matter," said Jason Chaffetz, a close Romney ally and a recently retired congressman from Utah. "He's no rookie freshman senator. He's going to come with a little more clout and gravitas than that."

Those closer to Romney suggest a murkier path ahead.

"It's really complicated," said Lanhee Chen, a senior aide on Romney's 2012 presidential campaign who remains close to Romney's inner circle. "I don't think he's going there to be an agitator."

But Chen said Romney sees a void in Congress he's eager to fill, particularly on foreign policy and federal spending, as more independent-minded Republican senators such as Arizona's Jeff Flake and Tennessee's Bob Corker prepare to step down, and Arizona's John McCain battles brain cancer.

In the time since Trump won the presidency, however, there are signs that Romney is inclined to defer to the undisputed Republican leader.

Romney disappointed some admirers with his prediction on Thursday about Trump's re-election. A spokeswoman later declined to say whether Romney was formally endorsing Trump's 2020 campaign. But Romney's words echoed across the political world, discouraging what remains of the GOP's Never Trump movement.

"Everybody gets sucked into the Trump vortex. I really thought Romney would somewhat stay above it," said Kendal Unruh, a Colorado-based conservative activist who tried to block Trump's nomination at the 2016 national convention.

Unruh said Romney's latest remarks prompted her to re-read his March 2016 speech in which he called Trump "a phony" and "a "fake."

In that scathing attack, Romney warned that Trump's proposed tariffs would trigger recession, his spending plans would explode the national debt and his foreign policy would endanger America's security.

"All those things are happening," Unruh said. "Isn't it amazing what an endorsement can do? I've lost respect for Mitt Romney."

Romney has walked a fine line on Trump in his Senate campaign, aligning himself with many of the president's policies while subtly raising concerns about Trump's leadership style.

In his weekend remarks, Romney initially described the increase in deficit-spending under Trump as one of the "extraordinary stimulus actions" in Trump's first year in office. Romney later raised concerns about the cost of such red ink.

"We don't seem to be making much progress on that," Romney said.

With the primary approaching, Romney doesn't appear to be paying a political price for the balancing act in Utah, where Romney remains a beloved adopted son and many conservatives share mixed views of the president.

There are Romney critics, however.

Former Republican state lawmaker Curt Oda said he doesn't trust Romney. "I think he'll do things to stall the president, whether it's good or not ... just because he hates the president so badly," he said.

Scaramucci, however, insists there's no bad blood from Trump's perspective.

Romney "said the guy's going to win re-election," Scaramucci said. 'I think he can be an ally."

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Elections, General Senate Election News, AP Business, AP Elections - Campaigns, AP Business - Economy
© Copyright 2019
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Now a candidate, Romney appears to embrace Trump presidency
In wake of Trump, no other Republican leader may demonstrate the transformation of the modern-day GOP better than Mitt Romney
12:08AM ( 8 minutes ago )
The Latest: Trump arrives for meeting with Singapore leader
President Donald Trump has arrived at the Istana for a meeting with Singapore's leader, who is hosting Tuesday's unprecedented summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
12:00AM ( 16 minutes ago )
Singapore Postcard: Summit a chance to showcase its food
The tiny city-state of Singapore is hosting its largest media contingent ever for the Trump-Kim summit and it's feeding the pack well
11:48PM ( 28 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Trump's tweets slam Canada and Trudeau anew from Singapore
Trump takes more swipes at Canada and its prime minister over trade issues as he settles in for a summit with North Korea in Singapore
10:40PM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: Trump, Kim to open summit by meeting one on one
North Korea's official media report leader Kim is in Singapore to meet Trump discuss how to forge a new relationship
9:53PM ( 2 hours ago )
The Latest: Trump tweeting about G-7 before Kim meeting
President Donald Trump is taking more swipes at Canada and its prime minister over trade issues as he settles in for a summit with North Korea in Singapore.
9:48PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Lawmakers want to question Brexit backer on Russia meetings
The chairman of the British Parliament's media committee says a millionaire backer of the successful campaign to leave the European Union has questions to answer about his contacts with Russian officials
11:23AM ( 12 hours ago )
The Latest: Senator says Kim already can claim some success
A top Democratic senator says the North Korean leader has already achieved some success just by bringing the American president to the table
10:40AM ( 13 hours ago )
100 years of voting: British marches celebrate suffragettes
Thousands of women are gathering to turn British cities into rivers of green, white and violet to mark 100 years since the first U.K. women won the right to vote.
10:27AM ( 13 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
No voter registration point of pride, unease in North Dakota
North Dakota is the only state in the nation without voter registration, a system longtime residents prize for its simplicity
12:55PM ( 11 hours ago )
The Latest: FIFA presidential election period set to open
The next FIFA presidential election period formally starts this week in Moscow
12:27PM ( 11 hours ago )
Manafort faces new charges in Russia probe
Special counsel Robert Mueller brings new obstruction charges against President Donald Trump's campaign chairman and a longtime associate
12:41AM ( 1 day ago )
AP Elections
Romney predicts 4 more years for Trump
Mitt Romney: Trump will 'easily' win a second term in 2020
10:16PM ( 3 days ago )
Fellow Democrat squeaks through primary to take on Feinstein
Democrat Kevin de Leon is sharpening his attacks on U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein after squeaking out a second-place finish in California's primary
6:45PM ( 4 days ago )
GOP lifts up Montana Senate candidate trying to oust Tester
He might not have been their first choice, but Republicans are all in on Montana's Matt Rosendale as they look to defeat Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester
4:41PM ( 4 days ago )
General Senate Election News
3 Gulf Arab states pledge $2.5B to Jordan after protests
3 Gulf Arab states have pledged $2.5 billion to Jordan as economic protests over austerity measures have roiled the kingdom
11:03PM ( 1 hour ago )
Isolated Kim takes big gamble leaving home for Trump summit
Kim Jong Un is taking a big gamble in leaving the all-encompassing bubble of his locked-down stronghold of North Korea to meet with President Donald Trump in Singapore
10:01PM ( 2 hours ago )
Unorthodox Trump faces toughest test yet in NKorea summit
President Donald Trump's seat-of-the-pants foreign policy is facing its toughest test yet as he attempts to broker an end to North Korea's nuclear program
4:10PM ( 8 hours ago )
AP Business
AP names Steven Sloan as news editor overseeing politics
The Associated Press has named Steven Sloan as news editor overseeing political coverage, including the 2018 midterm elections and the 2020 presidential campaign
6:58AM ( 2 days ago )
Democrats spar in cutthroat primary race for Nevada governor
The fiercest primary election battle in Nevada this year is a race between two southern Nevada Democrats vying to become the swing state's first Democratic governor in almost two decades
2:10AM ( 2 days ago )
The Latest: Justice offers new look at classified info
The Justice Department is offering lawmakers a new look next week at classified documents on the FBI's use of an informant in the Russia investigation
9:36PM ( 3 days ago )
AP Elections - Campaigns
The Latest: Trump aide says Trudeau 'stabbed us in the back'
President Donald Trump's top economic adviser says Canadian leader Justin Trudeau "really kind of stabbed us in the back" when Trudeau said at the end of the Group of Seven summit that Canada wouldn't be pushed around by the U.S. and its trade tariffs
10:14AM ( 14 hours ago )
Trump pulls out of joint G-7 statement, attacks Trudeau
G-7 summit appeared to have weathered tensions over Trump's threats of a tariff-fueled trade war, then he withdrew from the group's joint statement
8:51AM ( 15 hours ago )
Xi extolls free trade at Asia meet as G-7 ends in disarray
Chinese President Xi Jinping extolled free trade during the closely orchestrated summit of a Beijing-led bloc Sunday, standing in stark contrast with the G-7 summit that ended in disarray.
5:08AM ( 19 hours ago )
AP Business - Economy
The Latest: Trump arrives for meeting with Singapore leader
President Donald Trump has arrived at the Istana for a meeting with Singapore's leader, who is hosting Tuesday's unprecedented summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
12:00AM ( 16 minutes ago )
Singapore Postcard: Summit a chance to showcase its food
The tiny city-state of Singapore is hosting its largest media contingent ever for the Trump-Kim summit and it's feeding the pack well
11:48PM ( 28 minutes ago )
Final preparations begin for Trump-Kim high-stakes summit
Final preparations are underway in Singapore for Tuesday's unusual and historic summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
11:42PM ( 35 minutes ago )
The Latest: SKorea gauges interest family reunions in NKorea
South Korea has started surveying South Koreans who would be willing to meet their war-separated relatives in North Korea for temporary reunions planned between the rivals as reconciliatory steps to help improve inter-Korean relations.
11:40PM ( 37 minutes ago )
Lugo, Frazier help Mets stop skid with 2-0 win over Yankees
Seth Lugo pitched six dominant innings in a stellar spot start, Todd Frazier hit a two-run homer off Luis Severino, and the New York Mets beat the Yankees 2-0 to snap an eight-game skid
11:14PM ( 1 hour ago )