On Thursday, Mitt Romney gave a speech in Utah in which he forcefully pushed back against the idea of a Trump candidacy. He called the Republican presidential frontrunner a “phony, a fraud.” He said that Trump was “playing the American people for suckers.” The speech was a blistering verbal assault on Trump. Romney came at him with the raw power of a back alley brawler
But here’s the thing: it won’t matter a lick to Trump’s supporters. If anything, the denunciation of two-time presidential election loser Mitt Romney may make them even more likely to go out and vote for Trump.
Many Trump supporters are working class, undereducated white men from rural areas. Mitt Romney, meanwhile, presents as the poster boy for the perfectly coiffed, prep-school-to-Harvard, consultant class Republican that Trump has successfully built up such incredible anger against (despite the fact that Trump is a trust fund kid himself). And before Romney had even spoken, Trump let him have it on Twitter:
Romney didn’t even choose to endorse a single candidate, like Sen. Marco Rubio or Sen. Ted Cruz. Instead, he pushed for voters to select Rubio in Florida, Gov. John Kasich in Ohio, and Cruz in any state where he is closest to Trump. Romney wants voters to set off a brokered convention, where Republican insiders can hand-pick a nominee, bringing up visions of the cigar smoke-filled rooms of old. His target audience wasn’t Trump supporters. No, he was speaking to supporters of the other three candidates, imploring them to vote strategically and deny Trump enough delegates to win the Republican nomination outright, even if he gets the plurality.
So even if Romney’s speech achieves its intended effect, what’s the end game? All of those Trump supporters who feel like the GOP establishment doesn’t care about them have a picture perfect example of just how little they do care. They won’t vote for Cruz, Rubio, or Kasich — they certainly won’t vote for Romney, who some have suggested could be voted in after some major tinkering at the Republican convention. They’ll stay home. And Hillary Clinton, the bogeyman of the Republican party, will still win the general election in November.
I’m not the first person to suggest that the Trump ascendency has the potential to rip the Republicans apart at the seams. But Romney’s speech on Thursday simply offers further confirmation that the two factions within the Grand Old Party are unlikely to find common ground.