Can Team Mitt take out Trump? Romney's former aides work to save the GOP from the Donald

Donald Trump's stubborn popularity has Republicans rattled, and Mitt Romney's old team is scheming to take him down

Published September 14, 2015 12:00PM (EDT)

  (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst/Dominick Reuter/Photo montage by Salon)
(Reuters/Jonathan Ernst/Dominick Reuter/Photo montage by Salon)

Donald Trump is a force for destruction. The man may promote himself as a builder of things – hotels, immigrant-proof walls, etc. – but his real talent lies in his effortless ability to humiliate and destroy his political opponents without sustaining so much as a scratch himself. No Republican presidential candidate who has come at Trump has managed to inflict any significant damage on the man, which is beginning to terrify people in the Republican establishment who now have to contemplate the once-unimaginable scenario of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Part of Trump’s seeming invulnerability can be explained by the people who choose to attack him. The Republican electorate is in a very anti-establishment mood right now, and so when someone like Jeb Bush huffs that Trump isn’t serious and quotes a bunch of his establishment-friendly buddies saying the same, that only serves to reinforce the idea that the Republican elites are out to get him. So how do you stop this guy? How can you take him down when attacking him only makes him stronger? How does one destroy an entity that specializes in aimless, incoherent destruction?

Turns out there’s a team of Republican operatives who are focused on that very question: the scattered remnants of Mitt Romney’s political operation. As the Boston Globe reports:

Now, the Mitt Romney diaspora — an army of former aides and advisers from Romney’s long political career — are arrayed among a host of Republican presidential campaigns. But, through no concerted effort, they are curiously aligned once again in common cause, a stem-to-stern effort that has united old comrades even as they nominally play for different teams: stopping Donald Trump.

“We are united,” said one former Romney aide now working for another campaign, which he said would not permit him to speak for attribution.

“It’s a common goal and not just for Romney people, but for anyone invested in Republicanism, conservatism, and anyone who gives a flying [expletive] about what we’re trying to do here. Even if you’re not getting paid, this isn’t good for anybody,” he said.

It’s a bit curious to see the Romney brigade working in common cause to take down Trump. The fact that they’re all united in this mission despite working for competing campaign operations makes sense given that Trump is, for the moment, dominating national and state polling. But there was a time when Donald Trump was, bizarrely, one of the most important people in the Romney universe.

In early 2012, Romney was struggling to clinch the Republican nomination as he faced down unexpectedly strong challenges from Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Romney had lost the South Carolina primary in embarrassing fashion to Gingrich, and with the Nevada caucus coming up, he wanted to give his campaign a boost. And so he sought out the endorsement of one Donald J. Trump, who had spent the previous few months embarrassing himself on cable news as the face of the insane birther movement. Trump’s endorsement was delivered at an event in Las Vegas in early February, where Mitt and Ann Romney stood awkwardly on stage as Trump introduced and gave his thumbs-up to Mitt, who described Trump’s endorsement, in that uniquely Romney-ish way, as a “delight.”

It’s not clear what benefit Trump’s endorsement conferred on Romney, but we do know that he spent the remainder of the campaign fielding questions about Trump’s ongoing birther fixation.

Now the Romney’s people are committed to taking down the guy they once welcomed into the fold. In fact, some of them believe that the GOP’s secret, break-glass-in-case-of-emergency weapon against Trump is Mitt himself. Again, from the Globe:

“Romney’s the one candidate who, if he was on the stage with Donald, he would bulldoze him,” said Scott Reed, senior political strategist at the US Chamber of Commerce and Bob Dole’s campaign manager in 1996. “He’s smarter, he’s more worldly, he gets politics, and he would not take it.”

That seems… unlikely. I mean, we’re talking about the guy who tried deflecting a debate challenge from Rick Perry by betting him $10,000. Also, he’s a two-time establishment candidate who lost badly in an election that Republicans believed they had in the bag – precisely the sort of foil Trump would relish. But that’s the best option this brain trust has thrown out so far, which only serves to underscore the fact that no one really knows how to stop Donald Trump.

Romney 2016? Trump Might Be Inspiring A New Campaign

By Simon Maloy

MORE FROM Simon Maloy

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

2012 Elections 2016 Elections 2016 Republican Primary Aol_on Donald Trump Mitt Romney Republicans