“So what do you think about President Biden’s first 100 days?” Romney begins to say, as the jeers intensify.
“Now you know me as a person who says what he thinks, and I don’t hide the fact that I wasn’t a fan of our last president’s character issues,” he said, prompting more boos from the crowd.
He paused for a few seconds as the booing continued before asking the crowd: “Aren’t you embarrassed?”
Later Saturday, a resolution to censure Romney for voting to remove Trump from office was defeated by a 798 to 711 vote, according to Utah Republican Party spokeswoman Lynda Cox.
About 1,900 delegates were in attendance at the start of the state organizing convention, held at the Maverik Center, Cox said.
The resolution, sponsored by Don Guymon, a party delegate from Davis County, cites Romney’s votes to remove Trump from office during both of his impeachment trials. The resolution alleges that Romney “consistently publicly criticized” Trump and that those comments “not only hurt President Trump’s reelection but hurt other Republicans on the ballot.”
Hours before rioters descended on the Capitol, supporters of the former president heckled Romney at the Salt Lake City airport, calling him a “traitor.”
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, some called Romney a “traitor” and a “communist” on Saturday as delegates shouted their disapproval toward the stage. Shortly after Romney began, outgoing Utah GOP Chairman Derek Brown called on the crowd to “show respect.”
The weekend scene in Utah reflects a chasm within the Republican Party that has widened following Trump’s exit from office. Many in the GOP remain closely tied to Trump, even as some in the party question what role the former president should continue to play.
In a statement emailed to The Washington Post on Sunday, Guymon said that while it was “disappointing” that the resolution did not pass, he believed Romney “received a clear message yesterday that grass-roots Republicans represented by the state delegates are unhappy with his performance in the US Senate.”
Romney’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
During his remarks on Saturday, Romney acknowledged that “I have a few folks who don’t like me terribly much, and I’m sorry about that.”
“But I express my mind as I believe is right, and I follow my conscience as I believe is right,” Romney said, which prompted loud cheers.
The crowd settled as Romney continued. During his remarks, he challenged Biden and Democrats on the president’s big-spending proposals, plans to raise taxes and stimulus payments that he said provided people “more money for not working than they made when they were working.”
Romney called himself an “old-fashioned Republican” and told the crowd they can “boo all you like, but I’ve been a Republican all my life. My dad was a governor of Michigan; my dad worked for Republican candidates that he believed in. I worked for Republicans across the country, and if you don’t recall, I was the Republican nominee for president in 2012.”
Many in the crowd cheered as Romney implored: “Let me tell you something, if we divide our party, we’re going to be a losing party.”
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), another of the seven Republican senators who voted in favor of convicting Trump during his second impeachment trial, said Sunday she was “appalled” by members of the Utah GOP booing Romney and attempting to censure him.
“We Republicans need to remember that we are united by fundamental principles, such as a belief in personal responsibility, individual freedom, opportunity, free markets, a strong national defense,” Collins said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Those are the principles that unite us. We are not a party that is led by just one person.”