Donald Trump, stewing at the White House, reportedly approached by Jared Kushner about conceding the election but as yet unmoved, is “the 900lb gorilla when it comes to the Republican party”, Utah senator and 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney said on Sunday.
The presidential election was called for Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate, on Saturday, when Pennsylvania moved into his electoral college column four days after the vote.
Trump, who responded with defiance – and by playing golf – “will have an enormous impact on our party going forward”, Romney told NBC’s Meet the Press.
“I believe the great majority of people who voted for Donald Trump want to make sure that his principles and his policies are pursued. So yeah, he’s not disappearing by any means. He’s the 900lb gorilla when it comes to the Republican party.”
Romney is a relative moderate in Trump’s party and a relatively independent voice – he was the only Republican senator to vote for impeachment but he also voted to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the supreme court with unprecedented and many say unseemly haste.
“The presidential race,” he said on Sunday, considering Republican victories in congressional, state and local elections, “was more a matter of a referendum on a person. And that when it came to policy, we did pretty well.”
In an interview with CNN’s State of the Union, Romney elaborated, claiming: “Republicans overall did better than Democrats overall in this election. So it comes down to a question about what does America want in terms of policy.
“It’s pretty clear they don’t want the Green New Deal,” he said, starting to tick off progressive policy goals not necessarily shared by Biden or offered on his platform.
“Pretty clear they don’t want Medicare for All, don’t want higher taxes, don’t want to get rid of oil and gas and coal. The American people are more conservative than they are progressive, so to speak, and any argument to the contrary I think is going to be met with a lot of resistance from the American people, and from members of Congress.”
Regardless of such political fights to come, Trump is still claiming without evidence that widespread voter fraud meant his election defeat was rigged.
Asked on NBC what he would like to see the president do differently, Romney said: “We’re not going to change President Trump or his nature in the waning days of the presidency. And so I don’t think I’m going to be giving him advice as to what to do.
“Clearly, the people in the past, like myself, who lost elections, have gone on in a way that said, ‘Look, I know the eyes of the world are on us. The eyes of our own people are on the institutions that we have. The eyes of history are on us.’
“In a setting like this, we want to preserve something which is far more important than our self or even our party. And that is preserve the cause of freedom and democracy here and around the world.
“But the president’s going to do what he has traditionally done, what he’s doing now … and by the way, he has every right to call for recounts. Because we’re talking about a margin of 10,000 votes here, or less in some cases [in fact just Georgia]. And so a recount could change the outcome. He wants to look at irregularities, pursue that in the court.
“But if, as expected, those things don’t change the outcome, why, he will accept the inevitable.”
NBC host Chuck Todd did goad Romney into slightly harsher words about Trump’s behaviour.
“I think it’s fine to pursue every legal avenue that one has,” Romney said. “But I think one has to be careful in the choice of words. I think when you say that the election was corrupt or stolen or rigged, that’s unfortunately rhetoric that gets picked up by authoritarians around the world.
“And I think it also discourages confidence in our democratic process here at home. And with a battle going on right now between authoritarianism and freedom, why, I think it’s very important that we not use language which can encourage a course in history which would be very, very unfortunate.”
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