Romney attacks Trump, now he's a media darling

Sen.-elect Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyThe Senate should host the State of the Union Dem leaders avert censure vote against Steve King GOP reasserts NATO support after report on Trump’s wavering MORE's op-ed in the Washington Post, ripping President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump claims media 'smeared' students involved in encounter with Native American man Al Sharpton criticizes Trump’s ‘secret’ visit to MLK monument Gillibrand cites spirituality in 2020 fight against Trump’s ‘dark’ values 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 FlakeSchumer recruiting top-notch candidate for McCain Senate seat The Hill's Morning Report — Trump eyes wall money options as shutdown hits 21 days Poll: Sanders most popular senator, Flake least MORE (R-Ariz.), Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerThe Memo: Romney moves stir worries in Trump World Senate GOP names first female members to Judiciary panel Former US special envoy to anti-ISIS coalition joins Stanford University as lecturer MORE (R-Tenn.), Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseOcasio-Cortez returns to 'The Late Show' on Monday On The Money: Shutdown Day 26 | Pelosi calls on Trump to delay State of the Union | Cites 'security concerns' | DHS chief says they can handle security | Waters lays out agenda | Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions MORE (R-Neb.) and the late John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGrassley to test GOP on lowering drug prices Listen, learn and lead: Congressional newcomers should leave the extremist tactics at home Overnight Defense: Trump unveils new missile defense plan | Dems express alarm | Shutdown hits Day 27 | Trump cancels Pelosi foreign trip | Senators offer bill to prevent NATO withdrawal 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 ObamaObama puts out call for service on MLK Day: ‘Make a positive impact on the world’ Trump, Pence visit MLK Memorial Trump offers to limit his border wall to strategic locations 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 Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiElise Stefanik seeks to tackle GOP’s women ‘crisis’ ahead of 2020 Our legislators must commit to making children a priority Dreamer: Dems 'should absolutely not' take Trump's immigration deal 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."