Mitt Romney bets on another sure thing

Mitt Romney spoke in October 2016 at Lake Michigan College in Benton Harbor, Mich.
Don Campbell/Associated Press/File
Mitt Romney spoke in October 2016 at Lake Michigan College in Benton Harbor, Mich.

Mitt Romney, man of many principles, strikes again.

After a woman told The Washington Post she was sexually assaulted 38 years ago, when she was 14, by Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, Romney tweeted, “Innocent until proven guilty is for criminal convictions, not elections. I believe Leigh Corfman. Her account is too serious to ignore. Moore is unfit for office and should step aside.”

For Romney, that’s tough, uncompromising, and welcome language. Unfortunately, as the Boston Herald’s Hillary Chabot reminds us, Romney also endorsed Jeff Perry, a 2010 Massachusetts congressional candidate who was accused by another 14-year-old girl of looking the other way when a police officer under Perry’s command strip-searched her. “He had to hear me screaming and crying. Instead of helping me, Jeff Perry denied anything happened,” the girl wrote in a victim statement. In that case, Romney chose to disbelieve the victim and instead blamed the allegations on Democrats who were pushing “twisted, distorted mistruths.”


Other than proving that we in Massachusetts have long memories, why should anyone care about more documentation of a politician described by onetime presidential rival Jon Huntsman as “a perfectly lubricated weathervane?” Well, Romney’s mulling a run for Senate. Somewhere in Western Massachusetts, Jane Swift, whom Romney pushed aside to run for governor back in 2002, is rolling her eyes as she hears that this master of the sure bet is again trying to clear a path for himself — this time by elbowing out Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah.

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Meanwhile, Romney’s also being marketed as a savior for Republicans and a voice of integrity against President Trump. Given Trump’s complete lack of integrity, it’s tempting to believe Romney has finally found some of his own to tap into. If Moore drops out, Romney can take some credit for it. But that doesn’t change the one constant in Romney’s story — change. A year ago, he was groveling before Trump, in a pitiful attempt to become secretary of state. The groveling came after Romney gave a speech blasting then-candidate Trump as a con man, phony, and fraud, unfit to hold public office. And Romney’s dramatic calling out of Trump came after he sought and got Trump’s endorsement for his own failed 2012 presidential run.

That follows Romney’s painful contortions on abortion and immigration. He’s not even faithful to his most significant accomplishment as governor of Massachusetts — the 2006 law that expanded health insurance coverage in the state and became a model for President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Since that time, he has called Romneycare “a model for the nation” and said he stood by the mandate written into the law that requires everyone to get health insurance. As a presidential candidate, he also called Obamacare “bad news” and described it as a power grab by the federal government. Then, after the campaign was over, in an obituary for his friend, Staples founder Tom Stemberg, Romney said, “Without Romneycare, I don’t think we would have Obamacare” and “a lot of people wouldn’t have health insurance.” Romney being Romney, he updated that view in a subsequent Facebook post, saying he opposes Obamacare, and added, “As I said in the campaign, I’d repeal it and replace it with state-crafted plans.”

That was then. If Romney won a Senate seat, what would he stand for now in Washington? I have no idea. But because of Moore, he’s getting some conditional love. As Gail Collins wrote in The New York Times, “it’s a tribute to the times we live in that at the moment, he looks . . . wow, not bad.” Disgust with Trump is inspiring some Republicans to become late-blooming profiles in semi-courage. Romney is opting to be one of them — for now.

Joan Vennochi can be reached at vennochi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @Joan_Vennochi.