Opinion: Mitt Romney Proving It’s Possible to Take on Trump

From The Washington Post:

Since Senator Mitt Romney voted to impeach Trump, he has been excoriated by most Republicans, vilified on Fox News as a traitor, and called a “disgrace” by Trump.

As Romney has been scorned around the US, within the borders of his home state he has found support from unusual sources. The reaction has been measured and muted.

“Democrats in Utah were more excited about Mitt Romney’s vote than Republicans were disappointed,” said Jason Perry, director of the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics.

It’s been suggested that Romney has pulled off what other Republicans have failed to do: take on Trump and survive. And it may be that Utah is unique.

“Utah is different,” said Perry, a former chief of staff to Republican Gov. Gary R. Herbert. Unlike other red states, majority-Mormon Utah has long been ill at ease with Trump’s crude style, including his xenophobic attacks on refugees and his fondness for profanity.

Romney may have been able to thread the needle. citing his faith when he delivered his vote on impeachment that “an inescapable conviction that my oath before God demanded it of me.”

“Utahns like politicians who have a conscience and a set of principles they follow,” Perry said. “There are many here who don’t agree with what Senator Romney did. But they’re not willing to go after him for voting his conscience.”

Trump’s attacks that Romney may have used his religion “as a crutch” are not well received here.

“I’m disgusted by it,” said Elaine Snarr, a political independent who thumbs through a well-worn copy of the Book of Mormon when not ringing up shoe sales from a shop on Bountiful’s postcard-perfect Main Street. “Faith is the foundation of everything, and Mitt Romney is a man of faith. How can Trump lead the country if he doesn’t have faith?”

As soon as the vote was over, Romney returned to Utah in haste, hoping to fend off irreparable damage by connecting with his constituents as quickly as possible to explain his reasoning. He flew home that night, and by the next day the retaliatory attacks were well underway. He met with state republicans in Salt Lake City where he found a push to censure him was already in talks. He was faced with the direct line of questioning suggesting that he was holding a personal grudge against Trump. But Romney explained that with the understanding of the evidence he heard, he was led to uphold his oath to the country and his fidelity to God. He was convincing that he was comfortable with his decision, and the tensions were defused with a lot of listening. Romney’s state colleagues would neither give him their support, nor hold his decision against him.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reached out the next day also to extend an olive branch in the hope of future cooperation. The Senate needs his vote going forward.

Still among residents there is mixed reaction. As legislators may have thought about censure, there was public backlash. There is sympathy for Romney and his statement about his religion seems to give him some kind of buffer with many. “It’s almost like he’s a prophet in the way that he’s untouchable. He can’t do anything wrong,” according to one lawmaker.

Other residents claim he may be lying — after all he is a politician. But where he has lost the trust of some Republicans in Utah, he has gained the votes of some Democrats.