In a possible ‘Senator Romney,’ some GOPers see an elder statesman and potential Trump foil
George Frey/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Former Massachusetts Governor and one-time Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is getting ready to announce he will run for the U.S. Senate in Utah, according to senior advisers familiar with the matter.
“He’s probably going to run for the Senate,” Ron Kaufman, a senior adviser to Romney, told ABC News’ “Powerhouse Politics Podcast” Wednesday, he added “He really does believe in service to the country.”
Romney first re-ignited speculation that he indeed is ready to make another foray into national politics with a tweet at the beginning of February.
What makes Romney’s expected announcement and desire to occupy a seat in the Senate particularly interesting is his relationship with the man who currently occupies the Oval Office.
“Here’s what I know: Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He’s playing members of the American public for suckers. He gets a free ride to the White House, and all we get is a lousy hat,” Romney said in March referring to then-candidate Donald Trump.
The comments were some of the harshest during a bitter 2016 presidential campaign. Now with Romney potentially occupying a seat Congress’ upper chamber, those tensions between him and the president are sure to resurface.
Romney was a favorite target for Trump on Twitter during the campaign, where the then-presidential candidate called him a “dope” and a “fool,” as well as “one of the dumbest and worst candidates in the history of Republican politics.”
Former aides to the former GOP presidential standard-bearer don’t expect the bitterness to subside immediately if Romney becomes a senator.
“There will be tension there I’m sure,” Kevin Madden, a senior adviser and spokesman for Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, told ABC News of Romney’s relationship with Trump should he succeed Hatch.
“I think there are areas where he can be helpful to the White House and there are always areas where he’s going to disagree and he’s going to be very clear and public about those disagreements,” Madden added.
Other former Romney aides do not see his potential Senate campaign as a vehicle to criticize President Trump.
“I do not anticipate that Gov. Romney’s candidacy will be a protest against the president,” Ryan Williams, a former Romney spokesman, told ABC News, “He’s not running to take on President Trump. He’s running to get results. But, at the same time, if he sees something undermining America’s ideas or its institutions, I think he’ll speak out.”
For those GOP senators that have already taken up the mantle and spoken out when they believe President Trump has overstepped the boundaries of American political decorum, a Senator Romney who is willing to continue that push back is welcome.
“We desperately need more independent voices around here. And he’d provide a good one. A loud one,” Senator Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., himself an at times vehement Trump critic, told ABC News this week. Flake also said he met with Romney “a couple of weeks ago.”
At 72 years old, Romney would be the oldest freshman senator popularly elected to a full term should he win in November. Romney would undoubtedly become one of the most well-known members of the Senate upon his arrival, and speculation over which coveted committee assignments he might seek is already well underway.
“I think he’s very interested in foreign affairs and on ensuring that we maintain global security and that America’s standing in the world is respected,” Williams said.
Madden also posited that Romney has a desire to make his voice heard not only on domestic policy.
“I think he does feel he has something to offer on some of the bigger challenges the country is facing. Mainly on the national security and foreign policy front,” Madden said, “So I think he’ll look to quickly establish his voice there.”
The sitting chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., announced last year that he would not seek re-election in 2018, and even as reports continue to circulate that he may rethink he decision, Romney could still be eyeing a position on the high-profile committee.
“I know he served as governor and ran in a presidential race and did a lot of work to understand foreign policy issues,” Corker told ABC News this week, “I think he’s going to be a strong voice on multiple issues, personally.”
When asked about whether or not Romney is eyeing a position on the committee he chairs, Corker, referencing his potentially impending retirement, said that decision might be out of his hands.
“Well, I may not be here,” Corker said.
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