The midterm election is shaping up as a referendum on Trump’s first two years in office — a dynamic that could endanger GOP control of the Senate, given that the president’s approval rating has hovered around 35 percent.
Some Senate Republicans worry that Trump is coloring the GOP brand in a way that could hurt their party’s future prospects, even though they largely support his agenda and are thrilled about his role in helping to pass a major tax bill.
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), the most outspoken of Trump’s critics in the Senate GOP conference, said Romney would “offer a different vision, a more traditional Republican vision” if he came to the Senate.
He’s one of several Republican senators who has spoken to Romney personally and urged him to run.
Romney, if elected, “will be an independent voice in the caucus,” Flake said.
During Trump’s presidency, the “independent voice” in the GOP has mainly been Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a war hero who beat Romney for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008.
But McCain is battling brain cancer and has been less outspoken in recent weeks.
Flake and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), two of the Trump’s other prominent Senate Republican critics, will retire at the end of this year.
John Weaver, a GOP strategist who is a vocal critic of Trump, said Romney “has both the stature and the strength and the courage to stand up to this president and speak truth to power, which is severely lacking in the Senate, absent John McCain.”
Another Senate Republican strategist who requested anonymity to comment on the president candidly, said, “we need respected voices who actually care about things like fidelity and decency and family and live their life according to their values,” referring to Romney.
“We’re a little short on that at the moment,” the strategist added.
GOP senators who have chatted with Romney are confident he’s going to announce a campaign to succeed Hatch in the next several weeks.
“If I were a betting man, I’d bet my house on it,” said Flake, who like Romney, is Mormon and doesn’t gamble.
Another Republican senator who has privately urged Romney to run for the Utah seat agreed that he would have a leading role in the caucus.
“He doesn’t take orders from anybody,” said the GOP source. “He comes with some real credibility.”
That lawmaker, too,…