Political News

Why Mitt Romney doesn't need to toe the Republican line on impeachment

Posted October 7, 2019 8:00 p.m. EDT

— Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah is a thorn in President Donald Trump's side. He has emerged as arguably Trump's strongest Senate Republican critic when it comes to the Ukraine saga and impeachment inquiry. Trump's so upset that he called for Romney's own impeachment in a tweet on Saturday.

For most Republicans, tweets such as these could send them into panic. Romney, though, appeared to laugh it off with a picture of himself and his family at a pumpkin patch.

Romney's able to do so because he has something few other Republican senators have: no upcoming election (he's not up for re-election until 2024) and a home state Republican electorate that likes him more than the President.

As I've noted previously, Utah is home to arguably the most anti-Trump Republican electorate in the nation. His approval rating in the state was 74% among self-identified Republican voters in the 2018 Cooperative Congressional Election Study. Nationwide, Trump's approval rating with Republican voters was a significantly higher 92%.

Trump's relatively low approval rating among Utah Republicans follows a poor 2016 performance among them. He took just 14% of the vote in the 2016 Utah Republican caucuses. That was his worst performance in any state caucuses or primary in 2016. Trump's nationally earned 45% of the primary vote.

You see the same underperformance for Trump in Utah in the 2016 general election. He earned the votes of only 64% of self-identified Republicans, in part because of a very strong performance by independent Evan McMullin. Trump won 88% of self-identified Republicans nationally in 2016.

All of these measurements demonstrate the same thing: Trump does about 20 points to 30 points worse with Utah Republicans than he does with Republicans nationally.

Now compare Trump with Romney in Utah. Romney is a superstar among Utah Republicans. He sports a favorable rating of about 90% among them, which makes him about 15 points more popular than Trump among Republicans in the state.

In no other state is a Republican senator so much more popular than Trump among self-identified Republicans.

The general election results in 2016 and 2018 show something similar. Romney took more than 90% of the self-identified Republican vote in the 2018 general election, according to the Cooperative Congressional Election Study. That's 25 points better than Trump did among self-identified Republicans in 2016.

No other Republican senator elected or reelected in 2018 outperformed Trump's 2016 performance among Republicans by as much.

Romney also vastly outperformed Trump in their intra-party Utah elections. Romney scored 71% of the 2018 Republican Senate primary vote. That's more than 50 points better than Trump did in the 2016 Republican caucuses in the state.

Indeed, when you match up Trump and Romney among Utah Republicans and those nationally, the difference really shines.

Ipsos found that Romney was about 60 points behind Trump in a potential 2020 Republican primary. This matches other polling that shows Trump absolutely obliterating the Republican field in his reelection bid.

Here's the catch: Polling also shows Romney beating Trump by about 20 points in a hypothetical 2020 matchup among Utah Republicans.

I'm unaware of a Republican senator in any state besides Utah who can claim they'd be a favorite to beat Trump in their home state caucuses or primary. If there were, then there might be many more of them willing to take on Trump.

And until Romney feels any electoral pressure, he'll feel free to take on Trump in a way few other Republicans do.

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