Romney attacks Trump, now he's a media darling

Sen.-elect Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyRomney: 'Putin and Kim Jong Un deserve a censure rather than flattery' A US-UK free trade agreement can hold the Kremlin to account Ex-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity MORE's op-ed in the Washington Post, ripping President TrumpDonald John TrumpGraham: America must 'accept the pain that comes in standing up to China' Weld 'thrilled' more Republicans are challenging Trump New data challenges Trump's economic narrative MORE, is the toast of many in the media as we begin 2019: 

"Mitt Romney’s put-up-or-shut-up moment on Trump" — Washington Post

"Mitt Romney Might Become Trump's Next Great Nemesis" — Vice News

"Mitt Romney, Piling On Trump: The president is facing a level of intraparty criticism that has no recent precedent" — The New York Times 

And, on cue, Bill Kristol of the late Weekly Standard posted on Twitter: 
Cable news is also buzzing about Romney (R-Utah). Per MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski on "Morning Joe" on Wednesday morning: "I get a feeling Mitt Romney is going to bring in a whole new dose of reality for this president." (Yes, this being the same Brzezinski who hammered Romney on a daily basis in 2012.) "Mitt’s run for president himself and he didn’t win, you know what he decided to do? Serve anyway. And I think Trump is going to regret not talking him out of this."
Not long after the op-ed appeared and began trending on Twitter, CNN announced that it had booked Romney for an interview Wednesday afternoon. 

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Funny how much has changed since 2012, when candidate Romney couldn't buy a break from the Fourth Estate powers residing mostly in the New York and Washington areas. It may be more than six years ago, but the caricature that was repeated over and over is difficult to forget: Romney was a socially awkward out-of-touch elitist; a sexist for his totally-misrepresented "binders full of women" comment; a racist because, well, just because. And an abusive dog-owner. Or something. 
 
But don't take my word for it in terms of how that coverage looked and sounded, just check out some of these numbers from that storybook campaign of 2012. 

According to the non-partisan Pew Research Center, in the week before the 2012 election, for example, 71 percent of MSNBC's coverage of the Romney campaign was negative compared to Fox's coverage of President Obama, which was 46 percent negative. During the critical time, Romney received exactly zero percent of positive stories from the network. And, according to Pew, from Aug. 27 to Oct. 21, 2012, the former Massachusetts governor received just 15 percent positive coverage over. 
 
When looking at the media landscape as a whole — which in Pew's case meant sampling the three major cable news networks, CBS, NBC, ABC, the 12 most popular news sites, 11 major newspaper front pages, news programs from NPR and PBS, and radio headlines from ABC and CBS — the research firm found that President Obama had received positive-to-negative coverage by a 10-point margin, while Romney was 17 points underwater on the negative side, or a 27-point difference. 
 
We've seen this movie before, of course, with any prominent Republican who speaks out against the president. Sens. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeAnti-gun violence organization endorses Kelly's Senate bid Arpaio considering running for former sheriff job after Trump pardon Overnight Energy: Warren edges past Sanders in poll of climate-focused voters | Carbon tax shows new signs of life | Greens fuming at Trump plans for development at Bears Ears monument MORE (R-Ariz.), Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTrump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid Meet the key Senate player in GOP fight over Saudi Arabia Trump says he's 'very happy' some GOP senators have 'gone on to greener pastures' MORE (R-Tenn.), Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseIt's time to empower military families with education freedom Bipartisan panel to issue recommendations for defending US against cyberattacks early next year The Hill's Morning Report - Trump lauds tariffs on China while backtracking from more MORE (R-Neb.) and the late John McCainJohn Sidney McCainCindy McCain says late husband would be 'very disappointed' with politics today What would John McCain do? Sunday shows preview: Trump ratchets up trade war with China MORE (R-Ariz.) and, of course, any of the dozens of #NeverTrump pundits so prominently featured on cable news are all deemed important and useful based not on their ideas but on their animus for Trump. 
 
McCain's relationship with the media has proved to only be one of convenience ... for the media. The former POW was adored for his unfiltered criticism of Trump as a candidate and president. Not so much when McCain ran against Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaNew data challenges Trump's economic narrative Trump preps conspiracy theory to explain faltering economy The ideological divide on vaping has a clear winner: Smokers MORE in 2008.
 
MSNBC even went so far to call Romney a "new maverick" on Wednesday, along with Sasse. 
Romney knows the road to national relevance is through the media, and you can bet the proverbial house that he'll continue to hammer away at the same president he met with on several occasions, pre-Inauguration, for the job of Secretary of State while lauding him in the process. 
 
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Romney has the luxury of doing what many other GOP senators cannot: Speak out against the president without consequences. Many Republicans in the chamber are reluctant to do so because they reside in states where the president is still relatively popular when compared to his overall poll numbers. In deep-red Utah, Romney will never be challenged in any serious way and therefore can let loose. 
 
Former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer said it best on Wednesday morning following the Romney op-ed. "I’m disappointed in Mitt Romney," Fleischer wrote. "His defining act as an incoming Senator is to criticize Pres. Trump. If Senator-elect Romney thinks Trump is a bigger problem than Nancy PelosiNancy Pelosi11 Essential reads you missed this week Pelosi asks Democrats for 'leverage' on impeachment Is there internet life after thirty? MORE or Sen. Schumer then he has a lot to learn about how things get done in Washington." 
But of course, criticizing Pelosi or Schumer doesn't get you glowing headlines or on national TV.
 
Mitt Romney penned an op-ed for the Washington Post slamming the president. Many in the media ate it up. This scenario was all-too predictable. 
 
Joe Concha (@JoeConchaTV) is a media reporter for The Hill and host of "What America's Thinking."