Donald Trump, stewing at the White House, reportedly approached about conceding by Jared Kushner but as yet unmoved, “is without question the most powerful voice in our party”, Utah senator and 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said this morning.
The presidential election was called for Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, on Saturday, when Pennsylvania moved into his electoral college column five days after the election.
Trump, who responded with defiance, “will have an enormous impact on our party going forward,” Romney told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday.
“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 Republican party and a relatively independent voice – he voted for impeachment but he also voted to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the supreme court with unprecedented haste.
“The presidential race,” he told NBC, considering Republican successes 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.”
Trump is still claiming without evidence that voter fraud meant his election defeat was rigged. Asked what he would like to see Trump do different, 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. 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.”
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 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.”