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Mitt Romney could be Trump’s Barry Goldwater

Barry Goldwater is remembered for many things. He is remembered as a sort of John the Baptist to Ronald Reagan by jumpstarting the American conservative movement. He is also known for badly losing the 1964 Presidential Election, a lopsided affair that helped President Johnson launch an almost unprecedented set of social laws and programs known as the Great Society. He is also thought of as a renegade conservative, someone who supported gay and women’s rights, breaking with the Religious Right which dominated Goldwater’s Republican Party during his final decades. Although he is known for making presidents—the liberal Johnson and the conservative Reagan—he is less remembered for taking down a president: Richard Nixon.

Senator Goldwater (R-Arizona) as he appeared in 1962, 12 years before he called for Nixon’s resignation. Source: Library of Congress

Although infamous now, the end of the Watergate scandal wasn’t an obvious conclusion for everyone. An important moment in the march toward President Nixon’s resignation was a collapse in Republican Party support. On August 7, 1974, Senator Goldwater led a delegation to the White House with an important message for the president: resign or be impeached. On August 9th, Nixon resigned. With him gone, the Republican Party and the country could begin to heal.

 

While Trump has often been compared to Nixon, few if any have made the connection between Goldwater and another conservative with a conscience: Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential nominee publicly denounced Trump’s candidacy in 2016 before embracing the president-elect in part due to discussions over the possibility of Romney becoming secretary of state. The appointment never materialized and while Romney has stated that he continues to agree with Trump on many issues, the former governor turned Senator from Utah has become one of the GOP’s most vocal critics of the president especially on the recent Ukraine scandal which has led Democrats in the US House of Representatives to formally begin an impeach inquiry.

 

With the prospect of having to vote on whether to impeach or not impeach President Trump a real possibility for Senator Romney, the Republican elder statesman has numerous choices to consider. He could continue his cautious opposition to the president and ultimately side with Trump on impeachment. He could become ala Goldwater a leader in the move towards impeachment by becoming the first GOP senator to call for Trump to be removed by the chamber. He could back one of the three Republicans challenging Trump in the GOP primary which includes William Weld, one of Romney’s mentors and predecessors as governor of Massachusetts, or the senator could decide to challenge Trump directly in the 2020 Republican presidential primary.

Ultimately, public opinion will likely play an important role in influencing Romney’s decision. Social Studio helps us get a better understanding of what users are saying about the junior senator from Utah. A review of sentiment towards “Mitt Romney” in Social Studio indicates that nearly three fourths of media mentions are negative. A closer look at some of these findings suggests that Romney is getting hit from both the left and right on his stances in regard to Trump and the impeachment inquiry.

 

Negative sentiment towards mentions of Romney suggests that the senator is facing push back across the political spectrum for his middle of the road approach to Trump. Source: Social Studio

 

While a decision by Romney to challenge a ethically endangered incumbent of his own party is without modern precedent, the senator himself would likely be among the first to admit that current circumstances are in need of bold endeavors. But what chances would Romney have against Trump in a battle that would be oddly reminiscent of THAT scene in Jurassic World? Polling suggest Trump’s lead among Republicans is insurmountable. Maybe Romney’s only real option is to do what Goldwater did: choose country over party and call for the president to resign. Social Studio will continue to follow news related to the Ukraine scandal and the impeachment inquiry as new information becomes known.

 

Examples of how Senator Romney is described on social media by liberal and conservative users. Source: Twitter via Social Studio