Politics

Trump Risks GOP Rift Over Romney Speculation

President-elect's consideration of fierce critic for State Department opens fault lines among his base, inner circle

President-Elect Donald Trump’s consideration of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for secretary of state is beginning to take a toll on his transition.

The attempt to heal the party by vetting, or even selecting the 2012 GOP nominee, is tearing the team that got Trump elected apart, according to media reports over the holiday weekend.

“I understand the business about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer, but this isn’t the movies.”

Trump said on election night that he hoped to heal the nation’s divides. He asked for help from former opponents. But as of last week, he may be inching dangerously close to taking that humble plea a bridge too far for some of his loyal inner circle.

Trump soon met with broadcast news journalists who loathe him. Trump then met with The New York Times editorial board, who also loathe him and who have not stopped their attacks on him. And now Trump considers a Republican for secretary of state who said often he could not abide Trump.

The Romney buzz is becoming a focal point for frustrated Trump backers.

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Over the holiday weekend, Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, made the remarkable decision to go public with her unhappiness about Romney being in the running for the job.

“Receiving deluge of social media & private [communications] re: Romney,” Conway tweeted. “Some Trump loyalists warn against Romney as sec of state.”

Conway later explained she has made her feelings known to Trump and Vice President-Elect Mike Pence, the leader of the transition team. But there are reports Trump is angry about the public criticism of his vetting of Romney.

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Conway is just the latest, and closest, Trump supporter to join the public crusade against Romney’s selection for the post. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and New York Rep. Chris Collins, one of Trump’s first supporters in the U.S. House of Representatives, have all voiced their objections.

“It’s not about that I don’t care for Mitt personally, but I’m still very unhappy that Mitt did everything he could to derail Donald Trump,” Huckabee told Fox News last week. “He didn’t just go after him from a standpoint of saying ‘I disagree with his policy on immigration’ or ‘I disagree with his policy on taxes.’ He attacked him on a personal level about his character, integrity, [and] his honor.”

The level of criticism from Trump’s top supporters and surrogates is, at this point, a distress signal. The team is unhappy.

The former Massachusetts governor has been quiet since his meeting with Trump. Romney has not apologized for his frequent attacks on Trump during the presidential race, nor has he indicated how he would mend the fences with Trump and his base.

Trump will meet with Romney again on Tuesday. The explanation is that they only met for an hour last week. But Trump will also meet on Monday with former Army Gen. David Petraeus, the former CIA chief who resigned after he admitted to sharing classified information with his mistress.

Petraeus is reportedly under consideration for the State Department job, too.

As for Romney, much of the speculation is spun and woven by pundits like Joe Scarborough of MSNBC. Scarborough and others often allude to Trump building a “team of rivals,” a reference to the 2005 book by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

In “Team of Rivals,” Goodwin tells the stories of Abraham Lincoln and his Cabinet officials, at least three of whom had run against Lincoln in 1860. It’s a narrative the media can’t quit, perhaps hoping to convince Trump to make the Romney pick.

The media loves parallels, and loves to promote theories of their own. Yet there is no real parallel close to Trump and Romney — except this poses the danger of igniting fresh civil war inside the almost wholly unified post-election GOP. Romney bitterly opposed Trump. And Romney lent independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin his email list for fundraising, according to the Deseret News.

It’s all too much for Trump supporters. One Trump supporter said the pick would be a slap at Trump’s considerable grassroots army.

“The very idea of Mitt Romney as secretary of state — or any other Cabinet position in a Trump administration — is a slap to his supporters,” said Brent Bozell, the president of the Media Research Center. “Plenty of people (myself included) opposed the president-elect, but virtually all endorsed him once he was the nominee. Not so Romney and the D.C. elites.”

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Bozell said Romney as secretary of state is just too much.

“I understand the business about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer, but this isn’t the movies,” Bozell said in an email to the media. “Romney personifies everything that’s wrong about the establishment. He has no respect for Trump and even less for his supporters. Should Trump select Romney, many of his supporters will wonder what respect Trump had for them, too.”

Romney could end the feuding himself by taking his name out of the running. The failed 2012 Republican nominee could even suggest joining the administration in another role — one less likely to cause backlash from longtime Trump loyalists.

He would make an excellent pick for ambassador to Canada or Mexico, two key slots Trump needs filled with strong candidates because of the coming negotiations on the border wall, the North American Free Trade agreement, and the Keystone XL pipeline.

Trump’s desire to go on a “tour of healing” is understandable and commendable. But in doing so, he must not rend his team of supporters.

meet the author

Political reporter, LifeZette. Indiana University journalism grad. Boston U. business grad. Former Indiana, Alabama statehouse reporter, Daytona Beach editorial writer.

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