Trump supporters call Romney a ‘Judas’ for his impeachment vote. In Utah, Republicans rush to his defense
A few weeks ago, former National Security Adviser John Bolton was the most hated Republican in Trumpworld. But that was before Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, on February 5, voted “guilty” on one of the two articles of impeachment that Trump was facing — and Romney is being lambasted by an army of Trump supporters who want to run him out of the GOP. But Jeremy W. Peters, in an article for the New York Times, notes that there is one place where many Republicans are standing up for Romney: Utah.
After Romney voted “guilty” on abuse of power (but “not guilty” on obstruction of Congress), Utah State Rep. Phil Lyman (a Trump supporter) drafted a resolution to censure him for the vote. But Peters reports that Lyman got a lot of “pushback” from fellow Republicans in the Utah legislature.
Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson asserted, “Censuring Sen. Romney for voting his conscience is a tricky place to be.” Gov. Gary Herbert told the Salt Lake Tribune, “I think that would be just a mistake to go down that road,” and J. Stuart Adams (president of the Utah State Senate) told reporters, “What I don’t want to do is move into the negative rhetoric I think is coming from Washington, D.C.” Adams said that although he disagreed with Romney’s vote, “I have respect for what he did.”
Utah is a deep red state: Trump won Utah in 2016 and is almost certain to win it again in November. But as Peters explains in his article, Utah is not especially Trumpian.
“Utah Republicans never quite fell for Trump as hard as the rest of their party did,” Peters observes. “The state’s political sensibilities, heavily influenced by its Mormon culture, are more agree to disagree than salt the earth. The president’s coarse language, belittling nicknames and aversion to humility help explain why his approval ratings overall in Utah have been below 50% for most of the last three years.”
Peters goes on to point out that although Utah Republicans “support Trump as their president,” they “have refused to join the pile-on” against Romney that “they see happening back east on Fox News sets and in social media feeds of the president’s followers, where their junior senator is being vilified as a ‘coward’ and ‘Judas’ who should be expelled from the Republican Party.”
The “back east” part is important. Jeanine Pirro, Sean Hannity and other Trump boosters at Fox News can rant and rave about loving the Heartland all they want, but they are New York City residents — and Utah Republicans don’t like New Yorkers telling them what to think.
Romney hasn’t always lived in Utah; he served as governor of Massachusetts from 2003-2007 before he first ran for president in 2008. But politically, it made perfect sense for him to position himself in Utah in recent years. Romney is a Mormon, and he won by a landslide when he ran for a U.S. Senate seat via Utah in 2018. The senator isn’t up for reelection until 2024, and claims among Trumpistas that his impeachment vote will come back to haunt him four years from now are suspect.
Over the weekend, Holly Richardson (a former Republican legislator in Utah), defended Romney in an op-ed for the Salt Lake Tribune — asserting, “In spite of the loud voices who are busy calling him names, there are many of us out here who are cheering for him.”