Romney looks to lead GOP’s establishment wing

DEER VALLEY, UTAH — Mitt Romney is mapping out plans to become a major player in the Senate — positioning himself to be the spokesman of a listless Republican Party establishment that’s been steamrolled by President Donald Trump.

The failed presidential candidate turned Utah Senate hopeful has made it clear to senior party officials that he intends to make a splash with his all-but-certain arrival on Capitol Hill next year, according to nearly a dozen senators, major party donors and confidants who’ve spoken with him.

He’s conveyed a desire to be a loud voice on fiscal issues, railing against the ballooning federal deficit and how Congress approves last-minute spending bills. He’s expressed an interest in joining the foreign affairs committee, saying he wants to speak out on the importance of the country’s role abroad and the threat posed by Russia.

And his top aides have broached the prospect that Romney could tap into the expansive national fundraising network that he established during his 2012 presidential bid to bankroll GOP candidates. Since entering the Senate race, Romney has spoken with Las Vegas casino mogul and megadonor Sheldon Adelson and has quietly encouraged major party givers to open their checkbooks for super PACs devoted to saving the party’s House and Senate majorities.

“He’s not going to be your typical freshman senator,” said Utah GOP Gov. Gary Herbert. “I think people are going to say, ‘Let’s watch Mitt. What’s Mitt going to do?’”

What he’s going to do when it comes to Trump is perhaps the biggest question on Washington’s mind when it comes to a Sen. Romney.

After warring with the president during the 2016 campaign, Romney has struck a delicate balance lately — offering praise for some of Trump’s policies while bluntly criticizing his bombastic style. But at a time when Trump’s “America First” and populist-driven approach has overtaken the party, Romney’s preliminary planning has led to mounting expectations among allies that he’ll try to be a counterweight to the president — at least occasionally — and to fill a gaping vacuum in mainstream GOP leadership.



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