Well, this does look like unity … only perhaps not the kind Donald Trump supporters expected. If personnel is policy, then a Trump administration might end up running a Mitt Romney policy shop out of the White House. According to the Washington Post, Team Trump has turned to Romney’s advisors for the transition, a process which finds nominees for key administration posts and acts as liaison to the outgoing administration:
Just 11 weeks ago, Mitt Romney was denouncing Donald Trump as a “fraud” and a “phony” and all but calling for a floor battle at the Republican convention to deny the businessman the nomination for president.
Yet today the man Romney tapped four years ago to draw up his blueprint for a new administration is in close talks with the Trump campaign, guiding the presumptive GOP nominee’s transition chief, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and other top officials on planning for actual governing should Trump win in November.
“They’ve had contact with me, and I’m doing whatever I can to pass along my experience,” said Mike Leavitt, the former Utah governor, top Romney adviser and evangelist for how to run an effective presidential transition (even if you lose the election).
Leavitt wrote a book about his experiences in transitions, even though the Romney team never actually got the opportunity to execute one. That wasn’t due to any failings of the transition team, of course, and they generally got high marks for the kind of discipline and planning that Team Trump has not exactly embraced in its campaign, as Lisa Rein notes in the report. That hasn’t escaped the notice of Corey Lewandowski, who told Rein that Leavitt’s model “worked very well.”
The model wasn’t just a logistics shop, either, as Leavitt made clear to Rein:
“My job was to prepare a government,” he said. “I took it seriously, and I think they should. Donald Trump especially should. He needs to have help because he’s not been in government before.”
Perhaps this might be why Romney himself exited the quixotic indie-conservative presidential bid effort this week:
Mitt Romney has ruled out an independent bid for president and is not actively recruiting any more potential candidates to do so at the moment, though he remains hopeful someone will emerge, allies told Yahoo News Tuesday.
Romney “feels like America hangs in the balance. He’s very distraught about [Trump],” said one Romney adviser. “He thinks Trump is this vulgar, dangerous, principle-less, value-less opportunist — putting it mildly.”
Team Trump may have brought Leavitt and his team on as the transition managers in part to get Romney to stop undermining Trump’s efforts to reunite the GOP. And why wouldn’t that work? If Romney’s advisor gets to run the operation that picks personnel and frames policy, that certainly would work better to shape the next Republican administration than a meaningless and divisive bid that splits the party and hands the election to Hillary Clinton. That assumes that Trump can win at all, of course, but at least GOP unity makes that a possibility — and perhaps gives Romney some way to shape the outcome of it.
Speaking of GOP unity, a new poll from Gallup shows that the inevitable rapprochement has already begun, although not enthusiastically:
As a number of Republican Party leaders express dissatisfaction with Donald Trump being their party’s presumptive nominee, rank-and-file Republicans have become more positive about the billionaire businessman. Over the last seven days, Trump’s favorable rating among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents has reached 66%, the highest since Gallup began tracking him nine months ago. His unfavorable rating is at 30%. …
The fact that Trump has a significantly more negative image than has been the norm for his party’s nominees at this point in recent campaigns could partially reflect the time frame of the nomination process. Trump’s battle against his competitors, for example, has gone on much longer than Bush’s in 2000, who was never seriously challenged that year as his party’s presumptive nominee. Similarly, McCain essentially became the presumptive GOP nominee by February 2008. Romney, like Trump, didn’t sew up the GOP nomination until late April, but he held an 82% favorable rating among Republicans by mid-May, a contrast to Trump’s current 66%.
Another Gallup measure reinforces the conclusion that Trump faces a more difficult than usual challenge in his effort to unite Republicans behind his candidacy. Republicans in May 13-15 interviewing were split down the middle when asked if they are pleased with Trump as their party’s nominee, or if they wish it was someone else — 48% pleased and 50% wishing there was someone else.
The GOP is still at the resigned acceptance stage. Let’s see what a Gallup poll looks like the week before the convention, especially if Romney’s move here puts an end to the independent-bid project.