Trump: Romney camp hasn't asked me to lay off the birther talk
Steve Marcus/Reuters

The awkward dance between Donald Trump and Mitt Romney

In 2012, as Mitt Romney was wrapping up the Republicans’ presidential nomination, he welcomed a public endorsement from Donald Trump. At the time, this was not without controversy; Trump was widely seen as a ridiculous television personality who championed a racist conspiracy theory.

But Romney, eager to lock up support from conservatives who agreed with Trump, welcomed the support anyway, literally standing alongside him at a 2012 event.

The alliance didn’t last. By 2014, when Trump was weighing his own presidential campaign, he started taking shots at Romney, and that intensified in 2015. By March 2016, the feeling was mutual: Romney delivered a blistering condemnation of Trump’s candidacy, telling voters, “Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He’s playing the members of the American public for suckers.”

That same week, Romney expressed some regret for having accepted Trump’s endorsement four years earlier. (It was also around this time that Trump described Romney as “one of the dumbest and worst candidates in the history of Republican politics.”)

Nevertheless, Romney changed his mind again after Trump was actually elected and Romney saw an opportunity to become Secretary of State – a chance Trump seemed eager to dangle, right up until he yanked it away.

A year later, the dance continues. Romney, once described by Trump as a “stone cold loser,” yesterday picked up Trump’s endorsement for his Senate campaign.

President Donald Trump is endorsing Mitt Romney in Utah’s Senate race, another sign that the two Republicans are burying the hatchet after a fraught relationship.

The GOP’s presidential nominee in 2012, Romney announced last week he would seek the nomination to replace retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch. In a tweet Monday night, Trump wrote, “He will make a great Senator and worthy successor to @OrrinHatch, and has my full support and endorsement!” Romney quickly accepted the endorsement via Twitter.

This was not necessarily an inevitability.

The Washington Post  reported two months ago that Trump, aware of Romney’s Senate ambitions, was quietly trying to undermine him, in part because the president still resented Romney’s 2016 criticisms.

The article added this gem:

Before Ronna Romney McDaniel took over as Republican National Committee chairwoman earlier this year, President Trump had a request: Would she be willing to stop using her middle name publicly?

Trump followed up by saying in a lighthearted way that McDaniel, the niece of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, could do what she wanted, according to two people familiar with the comments. But the change was soon plain for all to see. Though she had used her maiden name for years in Michigan, where her grandfather George W. Romney had been governor, McDaniel dropped “Romney” from most official party communications and has rarely used it since.

As for Mitt Romney, I’ve seen some suggestions overnight that he doesn’t have much of a choice: of course he’s welcoming the support of his own party’s president, the argument goes, because it’s the only logical thing to do.

Perhaps. But for a craven politician with a reputation for lacking core, consistent principles, the fact that Romney’s opinion of Trump has changed a half-dozen times in recent years does little to answer questions about his character.