The results of a special GOP special election in the red state of Utah may not portend well for Sen. Mitt Romney’s political future.
That’s because a candidate who is very pro-Donald Trump won the three-way race.
Celeste Maloy, a big proponent of the former president, defeated former state Rep. Becky Edwards, winning 38 percent of the vote in the contest for Utah’s 2nd Congressional District. Edwards received 35 percent of the vote, while businessman Bruce Hough came in third with 26 percent.
The trio of candidates were vying for a seat being vacated by Rep. Chris Stewart (R), who is retiring later this month to care for his ailing wife.
While all three candidates campaigned on a message of traditional conservatism — smaller government, pro-business, and so forth — Edwards was a decided critic of Trump while the other two candidates ripped the multiple indictments against Trump and called them politically motivated. Also, according to The Western Journal, Edwards likely sealed her fate when she admitted to having voted for Biden in 2020, which she said she regretted on the campaign trail.
The results should make Romney take notice. After Trump passed him over for secretary of state ahead of assuming office in January 2017, Romney has taken a decidedly hostile stance against the now-former president, voting to impeach him twice and siding with Democrats on a number of issues.
In July, a report noted that Romney was devising a new plan to prevent Trump from winning the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.
The Utah Republican and twice-failed GOP presidential contender wrote in The Wall Street Journal this week that GOP donors should pull funding from a myriad of 2024 Republican presidential hopefuls and concentrate their efforts on backing a single candidate who could then run successfully against Trump.
In the op-ed, which is titled “Donors, Don’t Fund a Trump Plurality,” and subtitled, “As in 2016, Republican candidates won’t drop out soon enough. Here’s how to give them a push,” he outlined his strategy.
“Despite Donald Trump’s apparent inevitability, a baker’s dozen Republicans are hoping to become the party’s 2024 nominee for president. That is possible for any of them if the field narrows to a two-person race before Mr. Trump has the nomination sewn up,” Romney’s column begins.
“For that to happen, Republican megadonors and influencers—large and small—are going to have to do something they didn’t do in 2016: get candidates they support to agree to withdraw if and when their paths to the nomination are effectively closed. That decision day should be no later than, say, Feb. 26, the Monday following the contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina,” he added.
Romney went on to say that “no-hope candidates” often have incentives to prolong their campaigns. Even if they come in behind the first-place candidate, it can set the stage for another run in the future or may lead to lucrative opportunities, as seen with Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.
He then quoted former New Hampshire Gov. John H. Sununu: “It is fun running for president if you know you cannot win.”
“Left to their own inclinations, expect several of the contenders to stay in the race for a long time. They will split the non-Trump vote, giving him the prize. A plurality is all that is needed for winner-take-all primaries,” Romney wrote before delving into some political history:
Candidates themselves used to consolidate the field to achieve what they saw as a greater purpose. In 1968, potential candidates William Scranton, Charles H. Percy, Mark Hatfield, John Chafee and Nelson Rockefeller rallied around my father, George W. Romney, instead of seeking nomination themselves, because they believed he had the best shot of stopping Richard Nixon.
When my dad’s campaign faltered, he and they swung to Rockefeller to carry their cause forward. They were unsuccessful but not because of blind political ambition or vanity. They put a common cause above personal incentives.