Mitt Romney happily accepted President Donald Trump’s endorsement of his run for a US Senate seat in Utah on Monday. Apparently, he’s gotten past the president’s comments about the KKK, Muslims, Mexicans, and people with disabilities from 2016 — comments that two years ago he said would make him reject Trump’s endorsements.
On Monday evening, Trump tweeted that he was backing Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and Republican candidate. Romney on Friday announced his plans to run for Senate in 2018 to take over retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch’s current seat. “He will make a great Senator and worthy successor to [Hatch], and has my full support and endorsement!” Trump wrote.
Romney responded with a grateful tweet of his own. “Thank you Mr. President for the support,” he wrote. “I hope that over the course of the campaign I also earn the support and endorsement of the people of Utah.”
Thank you Mr. President for the support. I hope that over the course of the campaign I also earn the support and endorsement of the people of Utah.— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) February 20, 2018
Observers online were quick to point out that Romney’s thanks and endorsement acceptance is quite a turnaround, given that he was a prominent anti-Trump voice in the 2016 election. Romney conjectured that Trump was hiding a “bombshell of unusual size” in his tax returns and called him a “phony” and a “fraud.” He said Trump’s admiration of Russian President Vladimir Putin while calling former President George W. Bush a liar was a “twisted example of evil Trumping good.”
One part of Romney’s Monday endorsement acceptance sticks out the most: During the campaign, Romney said he would never have accepted Trump’s endorsement for his 2012 presidential bid had the former reality TV star publicly said the offensive things he did about the KKK, Muslims, Mexicans, and people with disabilities. Trump can’t un-say those things, and he’s certainly never apologized. But apparently, Romney’s over it.
If Trump had said 4 years ago the things he says today about the KKK, Muslims, Mexicans, disabled, I would NOT have accepted his endorsement— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) March 3, 2016
When Romney tweeted about Trump’s 2012 endorsement on March 3, 2016, Trump had refused to denounce the Ku Klux Klan or disavow his recent endorsement from former Klansman David Duke. He had called for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the United States, derided Mexicans as criminals and rapists, and mocked a reporter with a disability at a campaign stop.
Since the start of 2018 alone, Trump has reportedly derided countries populated by black and Latino people as “shithole” countries; praised Rob Porter, the former aide accused of domestic abuse by three women; and blamed a Florida school shooting on the Russia investigation.
Last year, he also endorsed accused child molester Roy Moore in his Senate run in Alabama and said both sides were to blame for violence that erupted at neo-Nazi protests in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Romney accepted Trump’s endorsement anyway — and it’s not clear that he needs it. Utah is a deeply red state, and Romney’s prospects are good. Moreover, Trump isn’t particularly popular there: He received less than 50 percent of Utah’s vote in 2016.
That Romney has softened his tone on Trump is not entirely surprising. After the 2016 election, he met with Trump while he was under consideration for the secretary of state job. And as Vox’s Tara Golshan recently pointed out, it has been rumored that Romney will tone down his rhetoric against the administration.
“Mitt Romney understands something about President Trump: Trump is 100 percent transactional and not relational ... As a business person he understands the nature of being transactional,” Boyd Matheson, who was formerly Sen. Mike Lee’s (R-UT) chief of staff, told Golshan. People shouldn’t expect a “Romney–Trump cage match,” he added.
But maybe not a lovefest, either.