Politics

Trump Compares His Win, Romney’s Loss in Responding to Harsh Critique

RNC chairwoman McDaniel condemns her uncle’s ‘attack’ on Trump — without naming him

Mitt Romney will be sworn in this week as the junior senator from Utah, but the former GOP presidential nominee already is in a war of words with President Donald Trump. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Donald Trump on Wednesday fired back at Sen.-elect Mitt Romney after the onetime GOP nominee for president wrote in an op-ed that the sitting president “has not risen to the mantle of the office.”

As he waits to be sworn in on Thursday as the junior senator from Utah, the former Massachusetts governor provoked the president Tuesday with a Washington Post opinion piece that harshly criticized Trump. And in classic counter-puncher fashion, Trump questioned in a Wednesday morning tweet whether Romney would be “a Flake,” a reference to outgoing Arizona GOP Sen. Jeff Flake, who clashed with Trump but ultimately opted to leave office after Trump’s base in his state abandoned him.

“On balance, his conduct over the past two years, particularly his actions this month, is evidence that the president has not risen to the mantle of the office,” Romney wrote.

[Trump: No Money for Wall, No Signature on Bill to Fund Government]

“It is not that all of the president’s policies have been misguided,” he added, noting much of Trump’s domestic policies and parts of his foreign policies are ones “mainstream Republicans have promoted for years.”

“With the nation so divided, resentful and angry, presidential leadership in qualities of character is indispensable. And it is in this province where the incumbent’s shortfall has been most glaring,” the 2012 Republican presidential nominee wrote of Trump.

Steve Bannon, Trump’s former White House chief strategist and campaign strategist, once referred to his then-boss as a “streetfighter.” And senior White House aides stress almost daily that he will always “fight back.”

True to form, he did not let Romney’s blunt critique go unanswered.

Trump used the social media blast to answer his own question about whether Romney would follow in Flake’s footsteps as one of the Republican caucus’ leading critics of his presidency and behavior.

[Trump Invites Congressional Leaders to WH for Border Security Briefing]

The president wrote he would rather Romney “focus on Border Security and so many other things where he can be helpful.”

Trump could not resist, as he often does, pointing to his 2016 presidential win — and Romney’s loss four years prior — as a reason the incoming senator should fall in line with the party’s leader.

“I won big, and he didn’t. He should be happy for all Republicans,” Trump wrote, offering this advice to Romney: “Be a TEAM player & WIN!”

He took another shot at Romney during a cabinet meeting later in the day, saying if the former nominee had fought then-President Barack Obama as hard as he fights the sitting president, “he would have won the [2012] election.”

Romney’s piece antagonized Trump supporters within the GOP — Missouri Rep. Billy Long tweeted that Romney should “GET OVER HIMSELF,” referring to the incoming senator by the derogatory nickname “Mittens.”

In addition to retweeting others’ criticism of Romney, Long also took a shot at Romney’s niece, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, who had defended the president’s record of accomplishments the night before.

McDaniel later criticized her uncle — without naming him — for his “disappointing and unproductive” attack.

Having been called out by the president, Flake felt compelled to respond, pointing out that “we’re on the same team.”

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