Boy, this “secret Twitter account” thing has hurt him more than I thought it would.
No, I kid. Obviously the backlash in this poll is to his frequent noisy criticism of Trump. It comes with caveats, of course. First, Romney’s not up for reelection until 2024 (and who knows if he’ll even run again). He’ll be there hounding the president to the bitter end even if Trump gets a second term no matter how low his polling in Utah goes. Second, I’m not sure Romney particularly cares about his polling. His attacks lately on Trump are clearly the work of a guy who’s thinking more about his legacy than his hold on his seat. If he ends up as Jeff Flake and has to retire because he can’t win a primary, on a scale of one to 100 I’d guess his anxiety about that is somewhere in the neighborhood of “one.” And third, although Mike Lee has been a loyal soldier for Trump in the Senate for the most part (even backing his Syria withdrawal recently), Lee’s job approval is no better than Mitt’s. He’s at 43/47 compared to Romney’s 46/51. If kissing Trump’s ass is the secret to popularity with Republicans in Utah, why isn’t Lee at 60/40 or whatever?
Leave all that aside, though. This is a fantastic poll for Trump if only because it shows other Republicans in the Senate that not even Mitt Romney is immune from a backlash in Utah for criticizing him. If the first Mormon presidential nominee can be underwater in a state where Mormons are 60+ percent of the population simply because he’s anti-Trump, God help any GOP senator whose political position isn’t as secure in their own home state. See why I’m skeptical that Schumer will find even four Republicans to join with Democrats to give the pro-removal vote a majority of the Senate?
Although Romney’s and Lee’s overall approval numbers are nearly identical, the partisan coalitions that form their bases are starkly different. As you’d expect, right-wingers love Lee and then his popularity fades as you move further left. Romney, however, is disliked by both the very right-wing and very left-wing — and pretty popular among everyone in between.
— Romney’s approval rate among “strong Republicans” is actually underwater: Only 40 percent approve of him, while 59 percent disapprove of him.
That is rather amazing.
— But “strong Republicans” really like Lee, 72-19 percent.
Romney’s problem with the reddest of his party is no doubt because he has been critical of Trump, while Lee has mostly stood by the president.
Romney rebounds among those who said they are “not very strong Republicans.” He has a 71-23 percent approval rating among them.
Lee’s approval rating among that GOP group is 59-24 percent.
True political independents give Romney a 44-52 percent approval rating; Lee gets 36-53 percent approval from this group.
The most dramatic difference between them comes among Democrats. Lee is at single digits in approval among independent-leaning Dems, not-very-strong Dems, and strong Dems. By comparison, Romney is at 36 percent, 65 percent(!), and 32 percent among those groups, respectively. Obviously you’d rather have Lee’s coalition in a state as red as Utah than Mitt’s, since Mitt is more susceptible to a primary challenge and wouldn’t win most of those Democratic voters who approve of him right now in a general election. But these numbers do go to show that stalwart support for Trump is no guarantee of overall popularity even in a state as Republican as Utah. In fact, the same poll found that all three Republican members of Utah’s House delegation are *also* underwater in approval while the state’s lone Democrat in the House is in positive territory. That suggests that many voters aren’t thrilled with the GOP’s decision to stand by Trump on impeachment.
Elsewhere today, Tim Miller is urging Senator Delecto to take the final step in his political journey, a step made easier by the rising prospect of him not being reelected in Utah: It’s third-party time. No, no, not a third-party presidential candidacy. A new third party. To change the balance of power in the Senate.
First and foremost, it is electorally viable on a small scale. Mitt himself, thanks to his profile and the unique nature of the electorate in Utah, could survive without succumbing to the partisan poles that most politicians are slaves to. Secondly there are some obvious candidates for existing politicians who could join him to create a real organization. Moderate Republican governors Charlie Baker and Phil Scott from his erstwhile home in New England. Other anti-Trump electeds in Utah. Other Republicans in blue states or Democrats in red states who might need to shed their toxic party brand to survive. And most importantly a few fellow senators who might be interested in making a similar calculation: Namely Lisa Murkowski and Joe Manchin.
He has a point about GOP governors. Figures like Charlie Baker and Larry Hogan really do seem to belong to a separate party already. It’s not just that they’re moderate GOPers governing very blue states, it’s that they have no presence whatsoever in the right-wing media ecosystem. Surely they and other prominent but now out-of-office figures like John Kasich and Flake would be interested initially in the “Pierre Party,” let’s call it. And Miller’s also right that *if* the Senate shakes out a certain way next fall, even a small bloc of three like Romney, Murkowski, and Manchin could exert outsized influence over the body. If the Senate ends up as 51/49 in favor of the GOP and those three break away, they could effectively choose who the majority leader is, how the Senate operates, and so on.
It’d be almost hallucinatory to have the last 10 years of Republican politics end up with a third party led by Mitt Romney, of all people, brokering power in the Senate. The decade began with a populist righty backlash to ObamaCare that produced the tea party, a movement that wrestled with whether to try to take over the GOP or break away. It lost in 2012 with Romney, who was never a great fit for cultural reasons, but won its greatest victory with Trump, who was never a great fit for ideological reasons and who himself functioned as a sort of independent during the primaries. Under Miller’s plan this would culminate with Romney ceding the GOP to Trumpist forces and breaking away to form his own moderate outfit for centrist Republicans that could conceivably end up roadblocking the populists’ agenda in the Senate. Even the writers of the virtual reality we live in would consider it too far-fetched, I think, but it has an intriguing symmetry. Besides, if you believe today’s poll, Romney may well end up as a one-termer. Might as well make the most of his remaining time!
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