Mitt Romney socked it to Donald Trump in an uncharacteristically aggressive speech Thursday. After calling Trump a “phony” and a “fraud,” Romney issued a sharp rally cry for Republicans to coalesce around one of the other three men seeking his party’s nomination for the presidency.
Warning that a Trump presidency would, “lead America into a dark abyss,” Romney lined out concerns about Trump’s intentions to destroy the economy, disenfranchise the press, ruin the nation’s image abroad, and undermine the Constitution and democracy as a whole.
He didn’t stop there.
The former GOP presidential nominee continued with his assault on Trump by delving into the personal life of the man on a mission to “make America great again.”
“There is dark irony in his boasts of his (Trump) sexual exploits during the Vietnam War while John McCain, whom he has mocked, was imprisoned and tortured,” Mr. Romney said. The Mormon businessman then went on to opine about Donald Trump’s alleged marital affairs and quips about people with disabilities, and he gave a stinging assessment of the billionaire’s business acumen.
Romney stated that, “Of the remaining candidates, the only serious policy proposals that deal with the broad range of national challenges we confront have come from Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and John Kasich.”
This may all be true, from the perspective of many in the mold of Romney, a conservative capitalist establishment figure. Naturally, Trump, his surrogates and his supporters disagreed with the former Massachusetts governor’s biting review.
As powerful a rebuke as it was, Romney failed to provide what should have been the GOP establishment’s primary objective: promote a clear and inclusive vision to inspire conservative voters and out-charm the Orange Upsetter. Mitt’s loud entrance into this primary’s high-stakes political gamesmanship fell flat with the everyman. His hand was strong, but he just didn’t have the trump card, something The Donald, like him or not, has served up on a consistent basis, much to the joy of the party’s grassroots. Trump has awakened and seduced the new Republican base, rabid and patriotic nationalists desperate for a return to “greatness.”
Jobs, national defense, education. It will take white papers and details to defeat the great white Republican hope. The vision for America that Romney says Cruz, Rubio, or Kasich possess must be quickly articulated in a way rednecks, evangelicals, and the Archie Bunker demographic can appreciate. It may be too late to even try. Refined rhetoric from a millionaire with all the casual appeal of a freshly starched dress shirt is no match for the (feigned or not) warmth of the baseball cap-boosting billionaire television star with the over-the-top resting fox pompadour and grin of a veteran used car salesman that tells everybody, “We’re winning.”
Trump is the P.T. Barnum of politics, and we’ve all got free tickets to see his circus. Mitt Romney has much to learn from The Ringmaster. Lesson one, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
If the GOP establishment is to thwart Trump’s coronation, they’ll have to engage in more than name-calling. A master of media relations and of confounding his critics, Donald Trump will easily spin Mitt Romney and the GOP establishment’s last straw into political gold.
The Rev. Jarrett B. Maupin, Jr. is a Baptist minister, civil rights leader, and political activist. Follow him on Twitter @ReverendMaupin