The next round might be over a Utah Senate seat.
Steve Bannon is going after Mitt Romney for his disavowal of Roy Moore — and he may be gearing up another battle against former GOP presidential candidate, this one over Utah’s Senate seat.
It all started when Romney tweeted on Monday that electing Moore, the Alabama Senate candidate who has been accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old and making sexual and romantic overtures toward other teenagers while he was in his 30s, would be a “stain on the GOP and the nation.”
Roy Moore in the US Senate would be a stain on the GOP and on the nation. Leigh Corfman and other victims are courageous heroes. No vote, no majority is worth losing our honor, our integrity.
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) December 4, 2017
Then on Tuesday, Bannon, a former White House adviser, tried to rev up the crowds at a rally for Moore in Fairhope, Alabama. He attacked Democrat Doug Jones, Moore’s opponent, as a “Hillary Clinton globalist,” said the media is ignoring President Trump’s accomplishments, bashed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and made fun of Republican Sen. Jeff Flake for only writing a $100 check to Jones.
Then he lit into Romney and his behavior during the Vietnam War.
“Judge Roy Moore has more honor and integrity in that pinky finger than your entire family has in its whole DNA. You hid behind your religion,” Bannon said. “You went to France to be a missionary while men were dying in Vietnam. Do not talk about honor and integrity.”
“You ran for commander in chief and had five sons — not one day of service in Afghanistan or Iraq. We have 7,000 dead and 52,000 casualties, and where were the Romneys during those wars?” he continued.
Moore did fight in Vietnam — although in talking about Trump, Bannon failed to mention that the president never served and got five deferments, including one for bone spurs.
The blowback to Bannon’s Romney comments was swift. Several Utah Republicans forcefully condemned the remarks about Romney, including Sen. Mike Lee and Gov. Gary Herbert.
Mitt Romney is a good man. Whether you agree or disagree with him on any matter of public policy, you can’t credibly call into question his patriotism or moral character—especially on the basis of his religious beliefs or his outstanding service as a missionary.
— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) December 6, 2017
— Gov. Gary Herbert (@GovHerbert) December 6, 2017
But the most compelling defense came from Sen. Orrin Hatch, given that Romney and Hatch are reportedly engaged in a dance over who will hold Utah’s Senate seat after 2018.
Hatch released a statement saying that Bannon’s “attacks on Governor Romney and his service are disappointing and unjustified.” Hatch, who, like Romney, is a Mormon, also knocked Bannon for attacking the Mormon faith and its emphasis on missionary work.
— Senator Hatch Office (@senorrinhatch) December 6, 2017
Hatch, who is 83, has been in the Senate for four decades. He has not made a formal decision yet on whether he will retire — but if he does, Romney is reportedly gunning to run for his seat.
And Trump and Bannon are complicating factors; both are reportedly urging Hatch to run again in 2018 to block Romney from Senate.
According to a report in Politico, while Trump sees Hatch as loyal, he may be even more motivated by his animus for Romney. Romney criticized both candidate and President Trump, and Trump is reportedly not eager to have that potential opposition from a sitting senator. Which is why Trump is now cajoling Hatch to postpone retirement.
“We hope you will continue to serve your state and your country in the Senate for a very long time to come,” he told Hatch, as the senator stood beside him during a ceremony announcing that Trump would slash 2 million acres from two Utah national monuments.
Bannon has also reportedly backed Hatch’s campaign, also with the purpose of sidelining Romney. “If Steve had a choice between Orrin Hatch and Mitt Romney, he would pick Hatch 10 times out of 10,” a source told the Washington Examiner. And there’s no love lost between Bannon’s Breitbart and Romney:
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) December 6, 2017
Romney’s people have reportedly been miffed over Hatch’s equivocation, especially since Hatch at first encouraged Romney to run for Senate. When Hatch was asked whether he would seek reelection, he simply said, “We’ll have to see.”