Mitt Romney’s “anyone but Trump” speech is now fodder for both political analysis and satire with no certain verdict on Romney’s impact on the GOP presidential front runner.
“Now let me put it very plainly: if we Republicans choose Donald Trump as our nominee, the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished,” Romney said, calling Trump a phony and a fraud.
“He’s playing the members of the American public for suckers,” Romney continued Sunday, March 6, on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” The Romney punchline on Saturday Night Live’s satire pointed to Romney’s attacks having no impact.
“People that are inclined to believe Mitt Romney already thought Donald Trump was crazy,” said BYU associate political science professor Quin Monson. “He didn’t say anything about Donald Trump that I think changed a lot of minds. I think of the people that are really gung-ho for Donald Trump are also likely to discount Mitt Romney.”
Monson, director of the BYU Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy, described the impact of the speech as difficult to pinpoint since the audience Romney was gearing to persuade might already distrust the prominent Republican. He said Romney’s speech may have even been counterproductive.
Monson said Romney’s support to those questioning the substance of Trump’s campaign might help to rally together Republicans to choose an alternative candidate to support, it might not be an easy choice to make.
“It’s not an obvious answer as to who should drop out and endorse who, especially when it comes to (Marco) Rubio and (Ted) Cruz,” Monson said.
The internal war waging in the Republican Party could be seen in the unruly debate held in Detroit on Thursday, March 6, just hours after Romney’s speech. The discourse between the candidates tested the boundaries of political conduct and caused many viewers to avert their attention.
Monson described the national nomination campaign as lacking in “civility” with a “low level” of discourse.
“In the terms of my lifetime, I can’t think of an example that is quite this bad in terms of what people are willing to say, and in particular I think that has laid at the feet of Donald Trump, who has dragged the discourse down to a new low in modern times,” Monson said.
Former Utah Democratic Party Chairman Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, described the ongoing feud between the Republican candidates vying for the nominee as nothing short of a circus.
Dabakis doubts Romney’s address will impact the presidential race, describing Romney as a “hardcore” establishment that Republican Trump supporters would discredit anyway.
“As far as affecting the race, Donald Trump’s people are fringe people. They hate the establishment, and so by having Mitt Romney, who is the epitome of the Republican establishment, come out against Donald Trump, it’s like Smokey the Bear coming out against fire,” Dabakis said.
Utah Senate Pres. Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, said Romney’s speech might not impact existing Trump supporters.
“I think it will cause some people to think about where they will give their support,” Niederhauser said.
Despite one theory that Romney may be positioning himself for a GOP nomination, Utah Democratic Party Chairman Peter Corroon believes Romney’s words were given out of a “serious” personal concern and belief.
Corroon commended Romney for taking the initiative to stand up and speak out against Trump. Corroon said he thinks the former Republican nominee also made it clear that he is still available if needed.
“When I heard the speech it certainly sounded like he still has an interest in running for president. But while Mitt Romney says he’s not going to be running for office, I read that to mean that he would still be willing to be the candidate if the party so chose. I think he still left open the door for a brokerage convention which he might be the alternative candidate,” Corroon said.
Romney didn’t completely rule out a 2016 White House bid during his “Meet the Press” interview, saying he would not turn down an offer to be the Republican nominee at a brokered convention.