Tuesday , March 13, 2018 - 1:06 PM
Former Massachusetts Governor and current Utah Senate Candidate Mitt Romney take questions from students at Weber State University on Tuesday, March 13, 2018. The former presidential candidate was a guest lecturer for a combined political science, public administration and criminal justice class.
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 5:15 p.m. Tuesday with more information about Romney’s visit.
Looking back over the president’s first 14 months in office, though, the Republican U.S. Senate hopeful — stumping in Ogden on Tuesday — had largely good things to say. He pointed to the tax reform package Trump signed into law last year, the decision to shrink the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, and more.
“He and I are on a very similar policy page in his first year. I was for a tax cut and that’s what he put in place. I wanted to see deregulation where it was burdensome and ineffective and he has acted in that regard,” Romney said in an interview with the Standard-Examiner at Weber State University. “I think he was also wise in pushing back against federal overreach, particularly in our federal lands, such as Bears Ears and Grand Staircase.”
Indeed, 2017, all in all, was “a pretty good year,” said Romney, who announced his Senate bid last month and came to Ogden to mix and mingle with local leaders, WSU students and others. He singled out the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act inked by the president on Dec. 22 for particular praise.
“I actually think that was a good thing to do,” he told a group of WSU students during a class earlier in the day. The legislation mainly benefits corporations, with individuals seeing less of a gain, he continued, but it “will lead to more business creation, more jobs and better wages.”
Still, even if he had largely good things to say about Trump, in contrast to some tough words during the 2016 presidential campaign, that doesn’t mean Romney won’t speak his mind. He alluded to comments Trump made last August offering a measure of sympathy to white supremacists involved in a deadly march in Charlottesville, Virginia, which generated a strong backlash from Romney, among many others.
“For me, Charlottesville was very important. In my opinion, there’s a big difference between those people who are racist and those people who oppose racists, and suggesting that they are in any way comparable is something I find unacceptable. So I’ll speak out on that,” Romney said.
He just worries about being ineffective if too critical.
“People ask, ‘Are you going to be criticizing everything the president does every day?’ Of course not. I’m not going to be a gadfly if I’m elected to the Senate,” he said. If the president “does good things, I’ll point those out and say congratulations.”
During his stop here, Romney met with potential delegates to the Utah Republican Party’s April convention, who will be key in picking the GOPer on the June 26 primary ballot. He also shook hands in WSU’s Shepherd Union with students and other well-wishers, who waited in a long line to meet the candidate.
Though he may face regular questions about his relationship with Trump, it’s far from the only topic in the campaign. In an interview with the Standard-Examiner, he touched on immigration, gun control, and more. Here are some highlights:
Gun control, protecting schools from attacks: “I think states are the best place for legislative and policy changes relating to the safety of our schools… At the federal level, I’m not looking for new federal laws with regard to guns or school safety,” he said.
That said, he’d favor change requiring “more extensive and effective” background checks for those buying guns to keep arms from mentally ill people and others who pose a threat to themselves or others. He also backs “removing bump stocks from the public domain.”
Presidential aspirations: The U.S. Senate, if he wins his race, won’t be a stepping stone to something else, such as another bid for the White House, he said. Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, was the GOP presidential candidate in 2012, losing to Barack Obama.
“I’ve done that,” he said, laughing. “As you know, I’ve had that experience, and I’m looking forward to serving as a senator from Utah. I would’ve liked to have been the president but I didn’t get that job.”
Immigration: “Circumstances changed” since his presidential bid, when he opposed a measure meant to provide younger undocumented immigrants, known as “Dreamers,” a means to remain in the country lawfully. Notably, Obama implemented a program granting some of them a means to stay, though it remains the focus of fierce debate.
“Those that are here, so-called ‘Dreamers,’ I would now allow to remain in the country legally. As to becoming citizens, I don’t think there should be a special pathway for citizenship for ‘Dreamers.’ I think they should get in line like everybody else,” Romney said.
Obamacare: He didn’t specifically call for dismantling of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, the controversial federal program decried by many Republicans that’s meant to broaden the pool of people with health insurance. But he said health care policy ought to spring from states, not the feds.
He would like to move from Obamacare “to a state-driven model, where states are responsible for caring for their uninsured and the poor (and) a federal program is not imposed upon them.”
The general election is Nov. 6.