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What Mitt Romney thinks of Evan McMullin’s push for GOP reform, potential third party

Other Republicans, like Donald Trump and Jeffrey Lord, publicly question ‘A Call for American Renewal’

Mitt Romney, 2012 Republican nominee for president, speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, speaks during a confirmation hearing Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington. Evan McMullin, Miles Taylor and 150 other Republicans or former Republicans signed a “statement of principles” to guide a new political movement last week and threatened to leave the GOP.
Leigh Vogel, pool via Associated Press

Last week, former Republican policy strategist and 2016 independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin signed a letter, along with over 150 others, outlining principles for a new political movement. While their written intent was to “catalyze an American renewal” built on “founding American principles,” they also entertained the idea of creating a new party, should the Republican Party fail to reform.

Not all Republicans are ready to jump on board. Utah Sen. and 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney offered a brief statement in response to the manifesto, emphasizing his allegiance to his party but showing openness to new ideas.

“The best future for democracy, as well as for my party, is if we stand by the truth and we welcome people who have different points of view,” Sen. Romney said. “We are best served by looking forward and considering the ideas of those who have plans for the future of the Republican Party and for our country.”

Florida blogger and former president Donald Trump released a statement on his personal website, focused on signee and co-organizer (alongside McMullin) Miles Taylor, a former Department of Homeland Security official in the Trump administration. Taylor authored the anonymous 2018 New York Times op-ed titled “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration,” and has been a candid Trump critic since leaving DHS in 2019.

“A guy named Miles Taylor, who I have no idea who he is, don’t remember ever meeting him or having a conversation with, gets more publicity pretending he was in the inner circle of our Administration when he was definitely not,” the Trump statement read. “Now he’s putting together a group of RINOs and Losers who are coming out to protest President Trump despite our creating the greatest economy ever, getting us out of endless wars, rebuilding our Great Military, reducing taxes and regulations by historic levels, creating Space Force, appointing almost 300 Judges, and much, much more!”

Trump also critiqued three other signers of the manifesto: former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, and former U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va. “Miles Taylor and his fellow RINO losers like Tom Ridge, Christine Todd Whitman, and Crazy Barbara Comstock voted for Biden, and now look what they have — a socialist regime with collapsing borders, massive tax and regulation hikes, unrest in the Middle East, and long gas lines,” Trump wrote.

Freshman Utah Rep. Blake Moore, the lone Utah representative to vote in support of Rep. Liz Cheney last week, wrote in the Deseret News of his support for the GOP. “While I’ve heard again and again that the Republican Party is fracturing, I believe that we can rebuild our momentum and unite over our productive solutions,” he said. “We must use our recent challenges to unite in our shared vision rather than divide over past dramas.”

A lack of support from office-holding lawmakers is a major hurdle, political scientist Cas Mudde says. None of the manifesto’s signers are current members of the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives, and unless some sign on, it will be difficult to garner significant momentum. “Don’t get me wrong. It is great that at least some former prominent Republicans are willing to stand up to Trump and for liberal democracy,” Mudde wrote for The Guardian U.S.. “But this initiative is not a serious competitor to the current Trumpian Republican Party and it will not be the Republican Party of the future.”

Spencer Stokes, former chief of staff for Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah and former executive director of the Utah Republican Party, looks to McMullin’s movement as a healthy conversation for the GOP to entertain. He pauses, though, at the idea of forming a new party. “The danger in starting a new party ... is that it divides conservatives and all but guarantees Democratic victory,” Stokes wrote for the Deseret News. “When Bill Clinton won the presidency in 1992, it was in large part due to a fractured Republican Party.”

Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin praised the effort, even dubbing it the start of “the stampede away from the GOP.” Rubin, who previously called herself a conservative but now identifies as a “NeverTrump, pro-democracy” writer, called the manifesto a “declaration of independence” from the modern GOP. “This could be the platform of any GOP presidential nominee before 2016,” Rubin wrote. “Ultimately, their goal is not restoration of the GOP, but marginalization of the GOP as currently constituted.”

That mission is questionable — as is the alleged conservatism of the signers, writes Jeffrey Lord, a former Ronald Reagan aide. “One assumes that many if not all of the signers of this anti-Trump letter voted for Joe Biden in the 2020 election,” he wrote in the American Spectator, echoing the sentiment of Trump’s statement.

“Which means that as America slides into one Biden-created crisis after another — chaos at the border, the Carter-esque rise of inflation and gas lines, with chaos in the Middle East added in — these ‘Republicans’ need to be held as accountable for this dangerous mess as Joe Biden himself.”