Mitt Romney told Chris Wallace yesterday that he expects “extraordinary consequences” for his vote to convict and remove Donald Trump, but Romney might not be the one to feel them. Romney has another four-plus years before his next election, and Mitch McConnell needs every vote he can get in the meantime. Trump will huff and puff, but there was never much love lost between them anyway, and Romney has no career path outside the Senate in politics anyway.
The people who should be worried about extraordinary consequences are the vulnerable Senate Republicans that Romney hung out to dry on the vote, Rick Santorum tells Alisyn Camerota on CNN’s New Day. Romney played right into Chuck Schumer’s hands, and that’s what will cause the most resentment, Santorum explains:
— John Berman (@JohnBerman) February 6, 2020
SANTORUM: I think most of his colleagues are not going to be particularly happy with him. You know, as Mitch McConnell said yesterday, this was not so much to go out and get Donald Trump, this impeachment, but was to get, you know, control of the Senate and try to defeat a handful of Republicans who were up for re-election so the Democrats can take the Senate.
CAMEROTA: Well —
SANTORUM: I think Mitt Romney voting with the Democrats on this really makes these vulnerable Republicans more vulnerable, and I think that’s where the pushback inside the caucus is going to be a lot harder on him.
That’s almost undeniably the biggest consequence of Romney’s switch. Had Romney stuck with his caucus, Democrats still would have attacked Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, and other Senate Republicans for their acquittal votes, but Romney’s vote to convict makes them all look a little more like Trump’s handmaidens. There’s no doubt Romney made it more difficult for them to compete in November.
That’s likely why Romney felt compelled to write everyone a note yesterday ahead of the vote. No doubt Romney knows full well he left the vulnerable 2020 incumbents out to dry and probably figured he owed them at least an explanation. Will it help? The final line, “I trust that we have all followed the dictates of our conscience,” is likelier to get even further under their skin, however, for its apparent insinuation to the contrary — plus the fact that it’s also likely to appear in campaign ads against them in the fall.
It might not have mattered as much if Joe Manchin or Kyrsten Sinema had gone the other way. Both of them issued statements after Romney, and one has to wonder whether they might have decided differently had Romney voted to acquit. We’ll never know until we read their memoirs, but Romney’s big reveal two hours before the vote effectively tore away any political cover either would have had to break from their own caucuses. That may be another point that vulnerable GOP incumbents will stew over for the next nine months … or longer. Have fun in the lunchroom, Sen. Romney.
Update: I wrote “acquit” where I meant “convict,” and have fixed it above. Thanks to Matt C for the correction.