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Some Utah Republicans Say They Felt “Tricked” Into Voting For Sen. Mitt Romney

U.S. Senator Mitt Romney
Pool Photo
Some Utahns said they felt they were tricked into voting for Mitt Romney given his sometimes contentious relationship with the president.

Some Utah Republicans said they feel like they were "tricked" into voting for first-term Sen. Mitt Romney, R-UT, because he isn't as conservative as they thought.

Maribeth Merton, a Republican in Tooele, said she voted for Romney back in 2018 mainly because he’s a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints like she is.

“My main opposition to Romney now is his stand on abortion and how it keeps changing,” Merton said. “As an LDS person, which is what he is, I feel like we are pro-life. And he has not always supported that.”

Romney used to be pro-choice, but then announced in the mid-2000s that he was against abortion, except in the cases of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life was in danger, which aligns with the Church’s official stance.

“He really does seem like a chameleon to me,” she said.

There’s also his changing relationship with President Donald Trump.

The senator publicly criticized the President in 2016, but then seemed to patch things up after the election. Trump interviewed him to be secretary of state in 2016 and endorsed his Senate run in 2018. Hyde Park Republican Dave Evans said he expected Romney to continue the positive turn their relationship had taken.

“We were tricked into believing that he was going to really stand up for the values of Utah, support our president, support the Republican Party,” Evans said.

Romney does vote with the president 81.6% of the time, according to an analysis by the polling website FiveThirtyEight.

“It's not that he's not conservative, it's that he's not loyal,” said Weber State University Political Science Professor Leah Murray. “It's more of a branding thing than I think it is an actual understanding of Mitt Romney's positions.”

Romney did side with his party last week in the controversial decision to hold a vote on a Supreme Court nominee before the election. But Evans said that decision, which he agrees with, doesn’t change his feelings about Romney.

“Not even slightly,” he said. “You're either on the team or you aren't. And for the last quite a while, he hasn't been, in my opinion, on the team.”

Evans said for that reason he just doesn’t trust Romney.

Not all Utah Republicans feel this way though. A poll from June found that while 69% of strong Republicans in Utah disapprove of the job Romney is doing in the Senate, 55% of moderate Republicans did approve of his work. Romney is up for re-election in 2024.

Updated: September 28, 2020 at 8:35 AM MDT
This story has been updated to reflect Sen. Mitt Romney's June approval ratings.
Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
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