#NeverTrump to #OKTrump: Romney's evolution mirrors party

I think President Trump will be re-nominated by my party easily, Romney said. (AP)
Updated 22 June 2018

#NeverTrump to #OKTrump: Romney's evolution mirrors party

  • Romney was once a leading figure in the “Never Trump” movement
  • Many Trump skeptics in the Republican establishment hope Romney will emerge as a Trump cudgel when he gets to Washington

PARK CITY, Utah: Mitt Romney did not ride a donkey.
But the one-time presidential nominee and now candidate for Senate did cheer enthusiastically at a donkey basketball game, where 4-H members shot hoops while mounted on the beasts. Romney’s campaigning on the ground in Utah like a homegrown hero — even though he grew up somewhere else.
What he isn’t doing much is talking about President Trump.
Romney was once a leading figure in the “Never Trump” movement, but now he says he wants to work with the president. What does his evolution mean for Republicans still opposed to Trump?

What’s happening
Romney, the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, has dropped his harsh critique of Trump as he mounts a political comeback as a Senate candidate in Utah ahead of a June 26 primary. Romney recently surprised his most loyal supporters, who include many Trump critics, by predicting the Republican president would win a second term in 2020. He also downplayed concerns about Trump’s policies on trade, spending and national security — the same policies he warned, in a high-profile 2016 speech, would trigger an economic recession and jeopardize national security.
“I think President Trump will be re-nominated by my party easily and I think he’ll be re-elected solidly,” Romney told dozens of supporters at a luxury Utah resort.

Why it matters
Romney’s team is downplaying the significance of his new position, but by embracing Trump’s re-election he’s sending a strong message to the president’s Republican critics just as they’re beginning to contemplate strategies to stop — or at least slow — his 2020 re-election. The message, according to some Republicans who shared their reaction on and off the record: “No matter how you feel, stop fighting Trump; it’s not worth it.”
While many Republicans in Congress got that message after the 2016 election, for a smaller group of others, quiet conversations had continued about the possibility of mounting a 2020 challenge against him — either in a Republican primary or as an independent. High-profile Republicans such as Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are openly contemplating such a move.
Romney’s position doesn’t kill their prospective plans, but it certainly makes them harder to pull off with any kind of legitimacy.

What to watch
Will Romney continue his deferential tone with Trump after his Republican Senate primary on Tuesday? In a heavily Republican state, his election to the US Senate is all but assured if he wins the June 26 primary as expected.
Many Trump skeptics in the Republican establishment hope Romney will emerge as a Trump cudgel when he gets to Washington.
It could be that Romney has simply been downplaying his opposition to the Republican president in recent months to avoid enflaming Trump’s loyal supporters before next week’s Republican-on-Republican contest. Or, as some of his closest advisers suggest, it could be that Romney was never going to be the Trump antagonist that some hoped for.
Either way, the 71-year-old Republican leader should have an extraordinary megaphone on Capitol Hill that will help elevate his standing as a freshman. As a former presidential nominee, he’s sure to command attention wherever he goes. It remains unclear, however, whether he’ll use that status to challenge the president he once called “a con man.”

One last thing
Despite all the interest in his relationship with the president, Romney isn’t running as a big shot.
The one-time political celebrity is turning down national media requests in favor of local outlets. On the ground in Utah, he’s kept a packed schedule, campaigning at local parks, private homes and sporting events.
The aim is to convince Utah voters that he knows state issues and priorities. And that he’ll use his clout on their behalf in Washington.

Venezuela ‘on alert,’ closes Curacao border ahead of aid shipment

Venezuela's Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez attends a news conference in Caracas, Venezuela, February 19, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 28 min 50 sec ago

Venezuela ‘on alert,’ closes Curacao border ahead of aid shipment

  • Despite sitting on the world’s biggest oil reserves, Venezuela is gripped by a humanitarian crisis, with a shortage of food and medicine

CARACAS: Venezuela’s military said Tuesday it was on “alert” at its frontiers following threats by US President Donald Trump and ordered its border with Curacao closed ahead of a planned aid shipment.
Opposition leader and self-declared interim president Juan Guaido vowed to bring aid in from various points Saturday “one way or another” despite military efforts to block it.
But commanders doubled down on their allegiance to President Nicolas Maduro after Trump warned them to abandon him.
“The armed forces will remain deployed and on alert along the borders... to avoid any violations of territorial integrity,” said Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino.
Regional commander Vladimir Quintero later confirmed media reports that Venezuela had ordered the suspension of air and sea links with Curacao and the neighboring Netherlands Antilles islands of Aruba and Bonaire.
Shipments of food and medicine for Venezuelans suffering in the country’s economic crisis have become a focus of the power struggle between Maduro and Guaido.
Aid is being stored in Colombia near the Venezuelan border and Guaido aims also to bring in consignments via Brazil and Curacao.
A Brazilian presidential spokesman said the country was cooperating with the United States to supply aid to Venezuela but would leave it to Venezuelans to take the goods over the border.
Maduro says the aid plan is a smokescreen for a US invasion. He blames US sanctions and “economic war” for Venezuela’s crisis.

Guaido, the 35-year-old leader of the Venezuelan legislature, has appealed to military leaders to switch allegiance to him and let the aid through.
He has offered military commanders an amnesty if they abandon Maduro.
But the military high command has so far maintained its public backing for Maduro — seen as key to keeping him in power.
“We reiterate unrestrictedly our obedience, subordination and loyalty” to Maduro, Padrino said.
Guaido posted a series of tweets calling by name on senior military leaders commanding border posts to abandon Maduro.
He has branded Maduro illegitimate, saying the elections that returned the socialist leader to power last year were fixed.
The United States and some 50 other countries back Guaido as interim president.
Trump has refused to rule out US military action in Venezuela. He raised the pressure on Monday, issuing a warning to the Venezuelan military.
He told them that if they continue to support Maduro, “you will find no safe harbor, no easy exit and no way out. You will lose everything.”
Padrino rejected Trump’s threat, branding the US president “arrogant.”
If foreign powers try to help install a new government by force, they will have to do so “over our dead bodies,” Padrino said.

Despite sitting on the world’s biggest oil reserves, Venezuela is gripped by a humanitarian crisis, with a shortage of food and medicine.
It has suffered four years of recession marked by hyperinflation that the International Monetary Fund says will reach 10 million percent this year.
An estimated 2.3 million Venezuelans have left the country since 2015.
Guaido says 300,000 people face death without the aid but Maduro denies there is a humanitarian crisis.
Padrino said the military would not be “blackmailed” by “a pack of lies and manipulations.”
Maduro said that 300 tons of Russian aid would reach Venezuela on Wednesday. He previously announced the arrival of goods from China, Cuba and Russia, his main international allies.
In a series of tweets, Guaido urged supporters to write to the generals “from the heart, with arguments, without violence, without insults,” to win them over.

Guaido says he has enlisted the support of 700,000 people to help bring in the aid on Saturday and is aiming for a million in total.
He thanked Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain for pledging “more than $18 million for the humanitarian aid.”
British entrepreneur Richard Branson said he will hold a pro-aid concert just over the border in Colombia on Friday.
British rock star Peter Gabriel and Colombian pop singer Carlos Vives are among those scheduled to perform.
Former Pink Floyd singer Roger Waters weighed in on Maduro’s side in a video broadcast on Venezuelan state media, criticizing Branson and Gabriel and said the aid was being politicized.
Maduro’s government plans to stage a rival concert on its side of the border.