What sort of senator will Mitt Romney be? Not a backbencher, even day one

What sort of senator will Mitt Romney be? Not a backbencher, even day one
© Getty Images

What we do with former presidents is a subject frequently discussed in the halls of academia. After all, we now have as many members of that most exclusive club as ever, including some who are likely to be with us for a long time.

What doesn’t get as much attention is what becomes of those who sought the presidency and lost. The spotlight turns on one of them — Republican businessman Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyGOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki Romney: Trump's remarks at Putin summit 'disgraceful and detrimental to democratic principles' Utah's largest paper compares child separation to war crimes in scathing editorial MORE — now.

ADVERTISEMENT
Our history is replete with presidential nominees who lost their bids to become commander-in-chief but went on to serve in public office.

 

Several returned to Senate seats they once held. Others took governorships. Quite a few became secretaries of state. Charles Evans Hughes, a Republican statesman from New York, became chief justice of the United States following a stint as secretary of state.

Among the most notable were Henry Clay, who also served as secretary of state, but returned to the Senate after the 1844 election, one of several presidential elections he lost.

The most notorious undoubtedly was Aaron Burr. He got the “consolation prize” of the vice presidency during Thomas Jefferson’s first term, but killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel and later managed to get himself tried for treason.

Al Smith, a former New York Democratic governor who lost his presidential run in 1928, suggested that a U.S. senator-at-large position should be created for the losing presidential candidate.

Indeed, the United States Senate has been where several who were defeated for the presidency ended up.

What hasn’t happened is for a senator to rise from the ashes of a prior presidential campaign in a state other than the one from which he ran.

That mold will be broken with the election of Mitt Romney to the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring President Pro Tempore Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchDon't place all your hopes — or fears — on a new Supreme Court justice The Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s walk-back fails to stem outrage on Putin meeting On The Money: Fed chief lays out risks of trade war | Senate floats new Russia sanctions amid Trump backlash | House passes bill to boost business investment MORE. President TrumpDonald John TrumpIran claims it rejected Trump meeting requests 8 times ESPY host jokes Putin was as happy after Trump summit as Ovechkin winning Stanley Cup Russian ambassador: Trump made ‘verbal agreements’ with Putin MORE’s quick endorsement of Romney’s Senate bid will be remembered as a preview of coming attractions.

Romney hails from a prominent American political family. His father was governor of Michigan and himself ran for the presidency. He was a frontrunner for the Republican nomination until an unfortunate comment about being “brainwashed” over the Vietnam War killed his chances.

Romney’s niece is the chair of the Republican National Committee and he, of course, was governor of Massachusetts before being becoming the Republican standard-bearer in 2012.

Now he’s running for the Senate, but from Utah, the state where he now lives, albeit for a relatively short period.

He began his Senate campaign by quipping, “I want to dispel the rumor that I only ran for president as a stepping stone to run for the Senate from Utah.” His humor was lost on some, including the chairman of the state’s GOP who made some harsh remarks about Romney’s residency. He quickly walked back those comments.

While there will be some who attempt to pin the “carpetbagger” label on Romney, it’s not likely to stick. He’s got far greater ties to the state than, say, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonState Dept: Russia’s allegations about American citizens ‘absolutely absurd’ Trump on possible sit-down with Mueller: 'I've always wanted to do an interview' Election Countdown: Senate, House Dems build cash advantage | 2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser | Trump has M in war chest | Republican blasts parents for donating to rival | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders to campaign in Kansas MORE or Bobby Kennedy had to New York.

More important, timing and a little serendipity are on his side. As millions tune in to the Winter Olympics, Utahns have a constant reminder of what Mitt Romney did for the Beehive State when he took over the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.

When Romney arrived, the Winter Olympics were mired in scandal and mismanagement. Romney’s deft business touch turned them into a model of efficiency and success. He turned in a $100 million profit. With it came a great sense of pride for Utahns and a generator for the local economy that’s still paying dividends.

That’s not Romney’s only Utah connection. Like Hatch, a son of Pennsylvania, he attended Brigham Young University. His deep roots in the Mormon Church transcend political boundaries. Utah is the only state where a majority of residents (nearly two-thirds) belong to a single church, and the nature of their religion is cultural and political pervasiveness.

Romney won the state by nearly 50 points in 2012. It’s not likely he’ll lose in 2018. Recent changes to the rules of the GOP nominating process have made Romney’s path even easier.

The question on the minds of many is not whether Mitt Romney will become Senator Romney but what kind of senator he will be.

One thing is certain. He won’t be a backbencher, even on his first day. Even if he weren't the former presidential candidate of his party, Mitt Romney has the personality and experience to be a dominant figure in the media age.

The media will flock to Romney like moths to a flame. And they’ll constantly try to bait him, especially when he differs with Trump.

Romney’s not likely to take the bait, but how he reacts to such “opportunities” and what issues he chooses to highlight will be critical to his effectiveness in the Senate.

Neither Romney’s nor Trump’s positions are enhanced by media-induced bickering. For all the chatter now, come January 2019, President Trump and Sen. Romney are likely to be focused on their common interests.

Charlie Gerow, CEO of Quantum Communications and one of Pennsylvania’s most influential Republicans, is a nationally recognized leader in strategic communications and trusted advisor to leaders in government and business.