- - Monday, March 7, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

I gained a lot of respect for Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential race. He and his wife were obviously terrific people, and he, I believed, would be a wonderful president. I still think that, but after his theater of the absurd last Thursday morning attacking Donald Trump, Mr. Romney has turned from a smart and well-meaning politician to an underhanded plotter.

Even as someone sympathetic to many concerns regarding the current Republican front-runner, I found Mr. Romney’s attempt at scorching Mr. Trump’s earth boorish and insulting, ironically the very traits Mr. Romney seems to loathe in his nemesis.

While Mr. Romney couched his tirade in concern for party and country, the opposite seemed to be at play. Regardless of one’s opinion of Mr. Trump, he is in fact leading the Republican primary race. Yes, only by a plurality because of the vote split among the other candidates.

Mr. Trump, in polls and on Super Tuesday, manages only about 35 percent of the vote. That leaves 65 percent voting for Not Trump. If Mr. Romney is so concerned, he would recognize the problem isn’t the support Mr. Trump is receiving, but the division among the other candidates.

But he did not call for Messrs. Cruz or Rubio or Kasich to drop out. He didn’t try to narrow the odds by endorsing one of them. Instead, he called upon Republicans to vote for the person in their state who could beat Mr. Trump. In other words, eliminate the ability of any candidate to get a majority of delegates, forcing the decision to the convention.

A very strange thing to do, indeed, unless, of course, your intent is to have the bureaucracy determine the nominee. This would be a strategy guaranteeing even more chaos, creating months of public rancor, while sowing seeds of suspicion, distrust and conspiracy among the Republican voters.

It is exactly the sort of behavior that confirms the sense of disconnection and betrayal by Republican elites among the electorate that has made the ‘outsiders’ so popular during this season.

It’s becoming clear Mr. Romney had no intention of ushering in a solution to what he considers a bad outcome with a candidate he doesn’t like. He could have, for example, brought Mr. Cruz and Mr. Rubio together, explained the situation, convinced them to run as a unity ticket with Mr. Cruz as president and Mr. Rubio as vice president.

Then at the Romney press conference, they all would appear, with Mr. Rubio requesting his supporters to vote for Mr. Cruz in the upcoming contests.

That would have ended the drama, elevated the GOP, highlighted leadership and a commitment to country. The Cruz/Rubio team would sweep the upcoming contests dispatching Mr. Trump in a thoughtful and legitimate way, while still leaving it to the voters themselves.

It’s clear to the establishment Mr. Rubio is in serious trouble. He is 20 points behind Mr. Trump in his home state of Florida. We know the bureaucracy hates Mr. Cruz specifically because he is a genuine outsider who would change Washington.

So the unity ticket is impossible for them.

Mr. Romney’s gambit, therefore is likely this: Conspire to make moot the primary process, and decide for themselves, through chaos and back-room deals, who the nominee will be.

At least that’s what they think will happen, an increasingly bizarre desperation borne of the bureaucracy’s own feckless incompetence.

But the Republican establishment has a Plan B: If the Republican nominee is Mr. Trump, their candidate will be Hillary Clinton.

In Mr. Romney’s speech were at least half a dozen ready-made campaign ads for Mrs. Clinton in the general election. If Romney’s absurd strategy fails, which I suspect it will, Mr. Trump will still likely be the nominee. In a general election between Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton, imagine just these two sound bites from Mr. Romney as a Hillary Clinton campaign ad:

“If we Republicans choose Trump as our nominee, the prospects of a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished.” — Mitt Romney

“Dishonesty is Donald Trump’s trademark.” —Mitt Romney

Heck, at this rate, Hillary won’t even have to run her own campaign, Mr. Romney can do it for her.

They so fear losing control of the party, they are willing to sacrifice country.

In an interview with Neil Cavuto on Fox News Mr. Romney essentially confirmed this. When asked if he was concerned his anti-Trump strategy would actually hand the White House to Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Romney demurred, but implied he would follow his conscience regardless.

In other words, if Mr. Trump is the nominee, he’d prefer Hillary. Mr. Romney has said he wouldn’t vote for her, but on Thursday he certainly gave her a priceless campaign contribution.

I’m not on the so-called Trump Train, and I consider Ted Cruz the consummate tea party candidate whose commitment to country and Constitution are unmatched. Yet, if Mr. Cruz is not up to the task to unify the electorate, it is Mr. Romney’s dangerous attempt to make moot the will of the people that makes the idea of standing up for Mr. Trump very, very easy.

Tammy Bruce is a radio talk show host and a Fox News contributor.

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