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Mitt Romney Returns to the National Stage in the Senate Impeachment Trial

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06.02.2020

When it became apparent on Election Night in 2012 that President Barack Obama had won reëlection, Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, sat on a couch in the hotel suite where he had been awaiting the returns and began writing a concession speech. His wife, Ann, was next to him; other family members and campaign advisers lined the seats nearby. An aide suggested to Romney that he be “pastoral.” He would have time later to continue to press his ideas for the country. Romney’s reaction was one of disbelief. “My time on the stage is over, guys,” he said. “I mean, I’m happy for the time I’ve had there, but my time is over.” Ann Romney was equally emphatic. “We’re done,” she said.

This scene appears toward the end of “Mitt,” a documentary released in 2014, which shadowed the Romney family in the course of his unsuccessful 2008 and 2012 bids for the Presidency. The film’s concluding sequence shows the couple bidding farewell to their Secret Service detail and returning home shortly after the 2012 election. Romney settles into an armchair, his wife across from him. The moment is quiet and reflective—a narrative coda before the credits roll. The story line, however, that Romney’s second failed attempt for the Presidency marked his final exit from public life, proved to be inaccurate. In November, 2018, after the retirement of Senator Orrin Hatch, Romney was elected to the U.S. Senate in Utah. He was seventy-one years old. This week, Romney returns, once again, to the national political stage, as one of the leading protagonists in the third Presidential-impeachment trial in American history.

The uneven trajectory of Romney’s political career makes this a moment of genuine suspense, both for him and for American democracy. The animating rationale for Romney’s political career largely has been his image as a private-sector turnaround artist, based on his business career in management consulting and private equity, which made him fabulously wealthy. Romney’s ardent supporters also tout his character and integrity, qualities shaped by the Mormon faith, which occupies the center of his life. Yet questions about what he truly stands for have long hampered Romney’s efforts to attain higher office. In “Mitt,” one of the more human moments comes during the 2008 campaign, when Romney ruefully acknowledges the public’s perception of him. “When this is over, I will have built a brand name,” he tells his family. “People will know me. They’ll know what I stand for.” The camera........

© The New Yorker