In a new interview, Mitt Romney says that he criticized Donald Trump’s 2005 comments about women last week because they were “so over the line” that they demanded an answer.
“I felt that I had to say something again to simply point out to the women of America, and to the men of America,” Romney said in a podcast interview with Ashcroft in America posted on Friday, “that we're better than that and that this does not represent the quality or character of our country.”
In the interview, Romney talks at length about the 2012 Republican primary, the general election against President Obama ("It was not until election night that we recognized we were not going to win”), why he believes Republican voters nominated Trump, what the future holds for Republican Party as an institution, and how he thinks it’s likely that Hillary Clinton will win, but he doesn’t think “it's impossible that Donald Trump wins,” saying he has a 25% chance.
"We're conflicted as a people right now,” he said. “To a certain degree, we feel patriotism, pride in our country, [and] hope for the future. We're family-oriented, God-fearing, hardworking people. On the other hand, there's a growing stream of anger and resentment, defeatism, victimhood, and a lot of people are sort of torn in both ways. We have our better angels and our darker angels, if you will.”
That anger dictates the choice nominee, according to Romney, who outlined a pretty specific vision of what Trump represents in the party:
The voters chose a person who is on the populist spectrum, who is more isolationist both in foreign policy and economic policy than has been the party's tradition. I think that stems from the fact that people are angry about the lack of progress on issues they care about. They watch TV and listen to radio and hear a lot of people saying it could better, [asking] why can't the politicians get these done. They're angry about the people that they've elected in the past — the establishment, if you will. This resentment towards those who are more successful, resentment towards politicians, resentment towards the elite and media led the voters to chose someone who was willing to fly in the face of the leaders of the country.
But what that means for the party is less clear in his view — and what the aftermath of Trump’s potential defeat will look like, arguing that the party may need a sort of once-in-a-generation leader to bridge the gulf between the populists and the more traditional Republicans:
It's hard for me to gauge what would happen if Mr. Trump were to lose. I think it's more likely he'll lose than not. If he were to win, I think my party would be particularly troubled between those who were strong supporters of Mr. Trump and a smaller number at that stage who would be wanting to go in a different direction. But if he were to lose, then I think there are going to be many, many people who still carry his banner — a banner, if you will, of anger, resentment, wanting dramatic change, different policies on immigration and trade than we have typically adopted as a party versus those who are the traditional, more mainstream Republicans. Whether they can come back together again or not is a darn good question. I happen to think that for that to happen requires a person of unusual skill: a Churchill, an Eisenhower, an individual who's able to step forward, a Reagan, who's able to step forward and bring people together.
He is not, however, optimistic that this will happen soon.
“I don't know that we will see that person in 2020 or in the months leading up to that,” he said. “But absent that kind of leadership, I think it will be very difficult for the Humpty Dumpty to be put back together again."
Nathaniel Meyersohn is a political reporting intern and is based in New York.
Contact Nathaniel Meyersohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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