In an extraordinary display of chutzpah, risk-taking and fierce loyalty, Kellyanne Conway, Donald Trump’s campaign manager and adviser, took to the Sunday talk shows to poor mouth one of her boss’s possible picks for Secretary of State --Willard “Mitt” Romney.
David Axelrod, who held a position similar to Conway’s when Barack Obama was about to assume the presidency in 2008, spoke for many in the politics and punditry universe when he tweeted yesterday, “I have never, EVER, seen any aide to a POTUS or PEOTUS publicly try to box the boss in like this. Extraordinary.”
Sources from Trump’s transition team said the president-elect was “furious” at Conway for “going rogue.”
The case against Romney that Conway made on ABC’s This Week and elsewhere was that the 2012 GOP nominee for president was not just a leader of the anti-Trump forces within the Republican establishment but a critic who “went out of his way” to hurt the nominee of his own party. And there is no question that Romney could not have been more personal in his attacks, calling Trump “a phony, a fraud [whose] promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University.”
The second part of Conway’s attempted take-down of Romney was that appointing him to be Secretary of State would be a betrayal of the grass-roots supporters who elected Trump president. On CNN’s “State of the Union,” she said the level of concern from Trump loyalists was “breathtaking.” Again, Conway was right.
No name-brand Republican politician in America represents the political status quo that the Trump Movement rejected more than Romney.
Even given the fact that Romney made an embarrassing journey to Trump National Golf Course in tony Bedminster, NJ, on November 19 to kiss the president-elect’s ring, appointing him Secretary of State would be a slap in the face to all those so-called angry Americans clamoring for change.
Rep. Chris Collins of New York, an early Trump supporter, this morning on CNN called Romney “a self-serving egomaniac who puts himself first, who has a chip on his shoulder and thinks that he should be president of the United States.”
That may be a little harsh, but Romney’s eye has been on the prize of the presidency for decades. When he was working to repair the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics or when he was governor of Massachusetts from 2003-2007, it always seemed as if he was going through the motions – albeit with great effect – to get someplace higher.
Despite a losing bid to be the GOP nominee in 2008 and despite his defeat at the hands of Obama when he finally was the Republican standard-bearer in 2012, it is not unreasonable to believe that Romney has not yet given up on his lifelong quest. Why else would he prostrate himself at the feet of a man he so clearly considers beneath him? Answer: He needs to stay in the game.
Conway declined to say whether her comments reflected Trump’s thinking or were wholly her own. She said “Whatever he decides will have my full support and respect, and he knows that.”
But while Trump may not have signed off on Conway’s attack, her comments may reflect the thinking of others within the president elect’s camp.
In December, 2015, when Conway was running Keep the Promise I, a super PAC backing the presidential candidacy of Texas Senator Ted Cruz, she told New York magazine, “A lot of people who felt betrayed in 2012 set out to build political structures.”
Conway was installed at Keep the Promise I by hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer and his activist daughter Rebekah, and they had reason to feel let down by Romney: The Mercers donated $1 million to a Romney super PAC, according to Rolling Stone.
At a Republican post-mortem on the 2012 election held at the University Club in New York, The Washington Post says, party elders were stunned by a scathing critique of the Romney political operation – especially its polling and tech capabilities -- delivered by the then largely unknown Rebekah Mercer, who now sits on the executive committee of Trump’s transition team.
This election cycle, the Mercers employed Cambridge Analytica, a data firm controlled by Robert Mercer, to first work for the Cruz candidacy. When Cruz faltered, the Mercers got behind the Trump campaign and brought Cambridge with them. At their urging, two other operatives were hired by the Trump camp: Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway.