So It Turns Out Mitt Romney Is No Fan of J.D. Vance

Posted on Sep 14, 2023

Yesterday, McKay Coppins ran a blockbuster story about Mitt Romney ahead of the Senator and 2012 GOP presidential nominee’s retirement. There’s a lot in here to digest, including ketchup-smothered-salmon (yes, really). But one nugget should be especially interesting to Ohioans:

But as Romney surveyed the crop of Republicans running for Senate in 2022, it was clear that more Hawleys were on their way. Perhaps most disconcerting was J. D. Vance, the Republican candidate in Ohio. “I don’t know that I can disrespect someone more than J. D. Vance,” Romney told me. They’d first met years earlier, after he read Vance’s best-selling memoir, Hillbilly Elegy. Romney was so impressed with the book that he hosted the author at his annual Park City summit in 2018. Vance, who grew up in a poor, dysfunctional family in Appalachia and went on to graduate from Yale Law School, had seemed bright and thoughtful, with interesting ideas about how Republicans could court the white working class without indulging in toxic Trumpism. Then, in 2021, Vance decided he wanted to run for Senate, and re­invented his entire persona overnight. Suddenly, he was railing against the “childless left” and denouncing Indigenous Peoples’ Day as a “fake holiday” and accusing Joe Biden of manufacturing the opioid crisis “to punish people who didn’t vote for him.” The speed of the MAGA makeover was jarring.

“I do wonder, how do you make that decision?” Romney mused to me as Vance was degrading himself on the campaign trail that summer. “How can you go over a line so stark as that—and for what?” Romney wished he could grab Vance by the shoulders and scream: This is not worth it! “It’s not like you’re going to be famous and powerful because you became a United States senator. It’s like, really? You sell yourself so cheap?” The prospect of having Vance in the caucus made Romney uncomfortable. “How do you sit next to him at lunch?”

While Vance has at times turned our heads (and our stomachs), we will cop to never having specifically thought about how one might handle sitting next to him at lunch. So, at least we got that out of Mitt.

There is a bit of irony here in Romney of all people offering this criticism. While he clearly never dabbled in insurrectionism or election denialism in order to boost his fortunes with the GOP base, anyone over the age of thirty who pays attention to politics has got to remember Romney branding himself a “severely conservative” governor (nope), pro-life (also nope), disclaiming ownership of Obamacare which was derived from Romneycare, veering far to the right on all manner of issues but especially immigration in an effort to outflank John McCain in 2008, and other instances of selling himself for not a great deal. Of course, we suppose he wasn’t running to be a mere U.S. Senator then, but was rather running to be the actual President. Maybe that means he sold himself for a higher price, and the price of selling out was worth it.

The selling still occurred though. And it will continue to occur. Vance did it. Now, Vivek Ramaswamy is in the course of doing it. Ohio is not particularly distinguishing itself in this category lately, we will admit. At least with Frank LaRose, what you see is what you get. We think. Mostly.