Republicans and Democrats in Utah approve equally of the job Sen. Mitt Romney is doing, marking a dramatic shift from what has recently been greater Democratic than GOP support for the first-term senator.
A new Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll shows 51% of Republicans and 51% of Democrats in the state approve of his job performance. Romney does a little better among unaffiliated voters with a 54% approval rating.
Romney’s overall approval rating among Utah voters mirrors that of Republicans and Democrats at 51%, about where it has hovered for most of his three years in office. Still, 42% of Utahns disapprove and 7% don’t know.
Also, the poll found 45% of Republicans disapprove of Romney’s job performance, compared to 37% of Democrats.
A year ago, nearly two-thirds of Utah Republicans disapproved of the job he is doing.
“Right now, Sen. Romney is one of those rare politicians who has support from across the political spectrum,” said Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah.
So, what changed?
Republicans in Utah jumped all over Romney for voting not once but twice to convict former President Donald Trump — for abuse of power in 2020 and inciting an insurrection in 2021 — in Senate impeachment trials. They also ripped him for calling out Trump and other Republicans for perpetuating the “big lie” that the 2020 presidential was stolen.
Democrats, meantime, heaped praise on the senator for his impeachment votes and position on the election.
Although state delegates booed him at the Utah Republican Party convention last year, the catcalls have died down with time. A resolution at the convention to censure him failed.
Perry said Romney hasn’t had to constantly respond to or defend himself from Trump in the last year.
“He has not been called out by President Trump. He has not been put into a category of suspicion with Republicans by the president,” he said.
“I think Sen. Romney has enjoyed this past year, a time where Republicans in Utah have started to approve of him more because they’re not constantly being faced by a Republican leader telling them not to.”
Romney also in recent months has been quick to criticize President Joe Biden on various issues.
As Biden approached the one-year mark in office last month, Romney said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the president has had “52 weeks of bad weeks.”
Romney listed inflation, higher gas prices, the southern border, lack of COVID-19 tests available amid the omicron variant surge, the U.S. troop withdrawal in Afghanistan, and Russia threatening Ukraine among the areas in which the Biden administration has dropped the ball.
“Things are not going well. And the president needs to stop and reset and say what is it he’s trying to accomplish? And if it’s to try and transform America, he is not going to unite us,” he said.
Romney said Biden’s only success was the bipartisan infrastructure bill, a package the senator helped negotiate. The senator said only legislation with support from both sides of the aisle can get through the closely divided Congress.
The president’s January speech in Atlanta on ending the Senate filibuster to advance the voting rights legislation also drew a rebuke from Romney. He said Biden and the Democrats have “ventured into deep hysteria.”
“Their cataclysmic predictions for failing to support their entirely partisan election reform — worked out entirely by themselves without any input whatsoever from any single person on my side of the aisle — are far beyond the pale,” Romney said in a Senate floor speech.
The poll shows that Utahns who described themselves as politically “moderate” gave Romney a 55% approval rating, while “somewhat liberal” respondents gave him 53% approval. Among those who identified as “very conservative,” 45% approve and 50% disapprove of his job performance.
Romney, 74, is up for reelection in 2024. He has not said whether he would seek a second term.