Kellyanne Conway made one thing very clear in her Sunday interview with “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd: She’s not a fan of Mitt Romney. Like, at all.
Here’s how she responded to Todd’s question about her feelings about the 2012 Republican presidential nominee:
People feel betrayed to think that Governor Romney, who went out of his way to question the character and the intellect and the integrity of Donald Trump, now our president-elect, would be given the most significant Cabinet post of all, secretary of state. And that is a decision that only one man can make, President-elect Donald Trump. I will respect it, and I will support it 1,000 percent. But I’m reflecting what the grass roots are saying …
… They feel a bit betrayed that you can get a Romney back in there after everything he did. We don’t even know if he voted for Donald Trump. He and his consultants were nothing but awful to Donald Trump for a year.
That’s a very harsh assessment of a potential pick for secretary of state by the person who led Trump’s winning campaign for the White House. Conway is suggesting that Trump is free to pick Romney over former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani (or some other Trump loyalists in the mix) but that, by doing so, he would go directly against the will of the grass-roots base that delivered him the presidency. It’s sort of stunning.
It’s also not the first time of late that Conway has bashed Romney. She issued this tweet on Thanksgiving:
Why does Conway dislike Romney so much?
I reached out to sources in the political worlds of Romney and Trump for answers to that question. None were willing to speak on the record about such a sensitive matter, but all made clear that (a) Conway, very obviously, doesn’t like Romney, and (b) it was their belief that she was not “going rogue” — operating against the wishes of the president-elect — when it comes to Romney.
The most common explanation I got from these sources was that Conway believed that Romney and his team had gone well beyond most of the rest of the Republican Party when it came to opposing Trump. And that Conway believes that sort of apostasy can’t and shouldn’t be forgotten.
Romney gave a much-publicized speech in March in Salt Lake City in which he blasted Trump as a “phony” and a “fraud,” warning about the long-term consequences for the GOP if Trump was elected. Stuart Stevens, Romney’s senior strategist in the 2012 presidential race, was among the harshest — and most consistent — critics of Trump. (Stevens once compared Trump’s campaign to a car speeding down the highway with its parts falling off.) Mike Murphy, another confidant of Romney, was equally tough on Trump. And Katie Packer, who was Romney’s deputy campaign manager in 2012, was the founder of Our Principles PAC, the leading super PAC of the #neverTrump movement.
So, there’s history there.
Some people I talked to suggested that the enmity went even further back — to the 2012 election, when Romney was heavily critical of then-Senate candidate Todd Akin’s comments about rape and abortion. Akin, a Conway client, went on to lose that race to Sen. Claire McCaskill (D). Or that the ill will was tied to the Mercer family, major backers of Trump who have been very critical of Romney since he lost the 2012 race. (Conway is close to the Mercers.)
But it seems that the most obvious explanation — that Conway is channeling the anger of the Trump base toward Romney and his #neverTrump consultants — is the right one. And that Conway — despite reports to the contrary — isn’t off the Trump reservation on her Romney critique but rather singing from an approved songbook.
As always with Trumpworld, getting to the true truth is a challenge. What we know: Conway really dislikes Romney and wants someone — anyone — other than him to serve as the nation’s top diplomat.