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Romney carves out role as GOP thorn in Trump's side

Itt Romney, the 2012 GOP nominee, is setting himself up as the Republican in the Senate who is most willing to criticize President Trump and block his agenda.

With the death of McCain, the 2008 GOP nominee, last year Romney has assumed the Arizonan's mantle in the Senate of self-styled "conscience" of the Republican party, buoying Democrats on occasion and building an alternative power center in the party – and perhaps even positioning himself for a 2024 presidential prayer, though by then he would be 78. Last Tuesday, Romney was the only Senate to vote against Trump judicial nominee Michael Truncale, citingTruncale's disparaging comments about former President Barack Obama. Romney was one of four GOP senators in April poised to block the appointment of Trump picking Herman Cain to the Federal Reserve Board, until Cain dropped out.

Since arriving in the Senate in January ̵

1; after a campaign in which he had been supportive of the president – Romney has turned himself into one of Trump's most outspoken Republican critics, pennies in New Year's day on-attack attacking Trump's character and arguing that the president had "not been to the mantle of the office." Following the release of special counsel Robert Mueller's report in April, Romney said he was "sickened" by Trump's actions.

On Sunday, Romney was back at it, attacking the president's character. "I think he could substantially improve his game when it comes to helping the character of the country," Romney said on CNN.

"I think young people, as well as people around the world, look at the president of the United States and say," Does he exhibit the child of qualities that we would want to emulate? " And those qualities of humility, of honesty, integrity, and those things where I think have been some call, where the president has distanced himself from some of the best qualities of the human character. ”

While Romney has not called for Trump's impeachment, as Michigan Republican Rep. Justin Amash did on Saturday, the senator labeled Trump activities, as described in Mueller's report, as "troubling," "unfortunate," and "distressing," and added that "those things that, really, you would not want to see from the highest office in the country. "Amash, he said, was" courageous. "

Critics of Romney – whose reputation as a" flip flops "and opportunist helped cost him the 2012 general election – accuse him of shifting with the political winds on Trump. In 2012, he sought Trump's endorsement, though he looked visibly uncomfortable doing so. During the 2016 campaign, he denounced Trump as "lacking the temper to be president," stating: " Dishonesty is Donald Trump's hallmark. "

Once Trump was elected, however, Romney tried to become his Secretary of State, before turning into a Trump critic once again in advance of becoming a pro-Trump when he needed to win election to the Senate in 2018.

Romney's inclination to go on the offensive against Trump has inspired comparisons to McCain, who exulted in his media label or "maverick." McCain with his support for Trump in 2016 on moral grounds after a tape revealed Trump boasted about sexual assault. McCain also killed Republican's 2017 attempt to repeal Obamacare.

"I don't think he sees himself as the opposition to Donald Trump," said Jason Perry, director of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics. "I think he sees himself as his own brand, so he has shown a clear tendency to go after President Trump when he disagrees with him. I think Mitt Romney is trying to find a path where he is not in a position where he has to explain or defend what happens in the White House. ”

The prevalence of Mormons in Utah, a red state that went to Trump in 2016, makes it relatively hostile to the president. It is related to Washington, D.C. as the state or district with the third largest drop in net approval for Trump since its inauguration – a decline of 27 percentage points. In contrast, Romney is "very popular" in Utah, according to Perry. Polling from December 2018 found most Utahans wanted Romney to confront Trump if he were elected to the Senate.

"As with any president, you're not going to agree 100% of the time," the spokesperson said. "It's a little simplistic to just look at what he's done as going after Trump."

But if Romney is trying to establish himself as an independent voice within the Senate, he is doing it in a "haphazard way" where he is not consistently independent but simply the White House, according to one Republican strategist.

"It's one thing to be John McCain's always-independent, and that gives you a unique, independent credibility and a certain power within the institution. Romney is doing this in a way where he's getting the worst of all possible worlds, ”the strategist said.

“ If you do it the way Romney does, it makes the White House less inclined to do anything with you, and you Also, not setting yourself up to be an independent power base within the Senate. ”Romney may also have his own posture when he eagerly sat down with Trump just a few weeks after Election Day to be interviewed for secretary of state .

A Romney spokesperson pushed back against the notion that there was any underlying agenda behind the senator's criticism of Trump. "Senator Romney is simply doing what he said was in the Senate: supporting the president on issues where they agree, and being open about issues where they differ," the spokesperson said.

The White House did not respond to

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