Lamenting Trump era, Romney says GOP has 'taken a different course'

Romney would apparently like to play a constructive role in guiding the GOP's direction after Trump exits the stage. His influence, however, is limited.
Image: Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) arrives to cast a guilty vote during the final votes in the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill
Senator Mitt Romney, R-Ut., arrives to cast a guilty vote during the final votes in the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill Feb. 5, 2020.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters file
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By Steve Benen

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) reflected yesterday on the state of the Republican Party. As the Deseret News reported, the Utah senator did not sound pleased.

Sen. Mitt Romney says he doesn’t know where the Republican Party is headed as the president cozies up to dictators, and character doesn’t seem to matter in leaders anymore. The Utah Republican also said during a Center for Strategic and International Studies webcast Tuesday that the U.S. response to COVID-19 has hurt its role as a world leader.

“I have no idea what’s going to happen with my party," Romney said, carefully avoiding direct references to Donald Trump. "I represent a very small slice of my party. The party has taken a different course. My party was very strong anti-dictators, anti-authoritarian leaders, anti people like Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin, and now the party seems to be more comfortable with people like that."

While lamenting the administration's response to the pandemic and the White House's fiscal policies, the senator added, “I don’t know where my party goes. I have to be honest with you in that regard.”

I've long marveled at Romney's many metamorphoses. He's been an independent, a moderate Republican, and a "severely conservative" Republican. He's been a resident of Michigan, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, California, and Utah. He welcomed Trump's support, then denounced Trump, then unsuccessfully auditioned for Trump's cabinet, then welcomed Trump's support again, and then became an occasional thorn in Trump's side from his Capitol Hill perch.

But at 73, Romney seems to have settled into a new role: a Republican who no longer seems to recognize his party, and who's struggling to come to terms with what a hapless and corrupt president has done to it.

It's likely that the Utahan is thinking ahead, and would like to play a constructive role in guiding the GOP's direction after Trump exits the stage (whenever that might be). But Romney's wistful comments yesterday seemed to acknowledge that he represents "a very small slice" of today's Republican Party, which offers him limited influence to steer it in a more responsible direction.

In the meantime, when the president starts tweeting anew about Romney, at least we'll know why.