Few political observers think a truce between Donald Trump and Mitt Romney will hold forever, despite the president’s endorsement of Romney’s bid to win a U.S. Senate seat in Utah.
Both have feuded repeatedly, a struggle that has included a few schoolyard taunts from the president.
And Romney, who is a red-hot favorite to win in the overwhelmingly Republican state, could become a thorn in Trump’s side once he has a new platform from which to present a very different version of conservatism than the president’s.
Former Romney aides are skeptical that he will adopt a posture of frontal resistance to Trump. But they say he will not gloss over his differences with the president, either.
“Gov. Romney is a conservative Republican and he is going to be with the president 75, 80 percent of the time on policy. But he will have different opinions and he will continue to voice his opinions and talk about what he thinks is right,” said Ryan Williams, a former Romney spokesman.
Williams added that, in addition to some policy differences, “the governor and the president have significant stylistic differences; Gov. Romney is a man of great integrity and civility. The president has a bit more of a bombastic approach to governing.”
Others in the GOP, especially those whose sympathies lie with Trump, take a far starker view of the former Massachusetts governor’s intentions.
“He is running for the U.S. Senate for one reason and one reason only — to challenge Donald Trump in the 2020 primary,” said one source close to the Republican Party. “Romney knows that; Trump knows that; and most importantly, Trump’s base knows that.”
He accepted Trump’s endorsement during the 2012 campaign but blasted Trump regularly during the latter’s 2016 presidential bid.
Romney accused Trump of “coddling … repugnant bigotry” in February 2016, arguing that the candidate had not distanced himself enough from former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.
The following month, he lambasted Trump as “a phony, a fraud” and said that he was trading in “the very brand of anger that has led other nations into the abyss.”