Utahns believe Romney is burying the hatchet with Trump

FILE – In this Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012 file photo, Donald Trump greets Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, after announcing his endorsement of Romney during a news conference in Las Vegas. Trump is endorsing Romney in Utah’s Senate race, another sign that the two Republicans are burying the hatchet after a fraught relationship. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)

Mitt Romney announced his run for the United States Senate last month, and shortly after received an endorsement via Twitter from President Trump. Romney accepted the endorsement.

This endorsement marks the latest development in Trump and Romney’s shaky political relationship. Trump and Romney have had several public interactions in recent years that range from cordial to hostile.

In 2012, Trump endorsed Romney’s presidential campaign; in 2014, however, Trump spoke out against Romney, saying he would not even run alongside the governor.  

In 2016, Romney spoke out against Trump’s presidential campaign in a highly critical 20-minute video. Trump responded with equal hostility, calling him a “joke” and saying that he “choked.

There are multiple other tweets highlighting the hostility between the two; in recent years, there has been a clear animosity between them. Romney went so far as to say he would not have accepted Trump’s endorsement in 2012, had Trump said many of the things he’d said in 2016.

All of this makes it difficult to understand not only Trump’s endorsement of Romney’s 2018 senate run, but also Romney’s cordial acceptance. Sven Wilson, Department Chair of the Political Science American Politics department at BYU, says the answer may lie in Romney’s own desire to bury the hatchet.

“Romney has been a politician for a long time, and he is trying to figure out, I think, how to have this relationship with Trump, looking ahead to the time when he might be in the Senate, and not necessarily wanting to make things worse between himself and the president,” Wilson said. “He’s probably willing to overlook some things.”

Christina McKnight, self-proclaimed conservative and BYU student, said although she needed to research Romney’s motivations a bit more, she could understand his choice.

“Maybe he realizes that infighting isn’t going to get good people into the seats,” McKnight said. “It’s just going to get raunchy people into the seats.”

This opinion is shared by Rebekah Olsen, a BYU political science student who holds an intern position with the Romney for Senate campaign. Olsen said Romney’s acceptance of the endorsement may have been to avoid alienating conservative Utahns who also supported Trump.

“There’s nothing to be gained by standing up to the president, either in Utah or in the Senate,” She said. “There’s just not a lot of political value in rejecting the endorsement, because a lot of Utahns support Trump.”

Olsen made clear that her opinions were her own, and she did not speak for the Romney for Senate campaign. She added she believes Romney’s motivations are in doing what he feels is best for Utah.

“I think that Mitt Romney’s goal in this election is not to shake things up,” Olsen said. “He’s not trying to go into Washington, completely tear it down, and be this Republican antithesis to whatever Trump’s agenda is. I think he honestly just feels that he is the voice that Utah needs right now.”

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