With his declaration that it is “too early” to say whether he will support Donald Trump in 2020, Mitt Romney is preparing the groundwork for another run at the presidency. Romney appears to be figuring that Trump will either be ousted or so tainted by the Russia investigation that he can have another go at the office that has eluded him in the past. What if he’s right?
When queried about the Russia investigation, Romney was unflinching. “I think it’s a totally appropriate evaluation by our government,” he said. This contrasts sharply with the many Republicans who either join the witch hunt chorus or claim that the whole darned investigation is simply taking too long. If it turns out that Trump was Putin’s patsy, then Romney will be well positioned to announce that he had it right all along. Already Romney is claiming vindication for his assertion in the 2012 residential debate against Barack Obama that Russia was America’s no. 1 geopolitical threat. Back then he was laughed at. Who’s laughing now?
Not the British whom Trump is reportedly ready to throw to the wolves if they don’t up their defense outlays. Not the Germans who are trembling at the prospect of Trump blowing up NATO. Not the Baltic States whom Trump may abandon to Putin’s tender mercies.
The scenario by which Romney exploits these and other Trump moves is easy enough to discern. If Trump throws the international order into chaos by shredding America’s alliances in Asia and Europe and starts a trade war that results in a global recession, or even depression, he can kiss any dreams of being re-elected goodbye. Vice President Mike Pence is too closely associated with Trump to lead the party. In response Republicans start to gather around Romney who becomes their new standard bearer in the Senate.
This may not be that far fetched. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is already mounting a campaign against Trump’s tariffs. Romney, a member of the business elite, would allow Republican potentates to reassert control over the GOP, which has always been a vehicle for financial interests.
It would also be a mistake to underestimate Romney. Trump may yet come to regret humiliating Romney in November 2016 when he interviewed him for the Secretary of State post at Jean-George’s restaurant in Trump tower for a dinner that included sautéed frogs legs. Romney may have been humiliated then but now he’s out for revenge. Look at it this way: a man who in 1983 was ruthless enough to strap his dog Seamus to the roof of his Chevrolet station wagon on a family road trip to Ontario, Canada has to be taken seriously. Doggone it, a failed Trump presidency could be the one thing that finally elevates him to the Oval Office.