MSNBC reporter Garrett Haake on Tuesday spun Mitt Romney’s Senate primary battle as a struggle against the “far right.” Regarding Romney’s recent (and 2016 criticisms) of the President, Haake described: “But this idea of trying to drive a wedge between Romney and Trump is something that those on the far right may try to exploit tonight.”
On Tuesday night, Romney will face off in a debate against Utah House member Mike Kennedy for the state’s Senate nomination. Damning with faint praise, Haake compared: “Romney is fluent on policy issues. Far more so than most Senate candidates. He can talk about immigration He can talk about education.”
On Monday, Haake gushed over Romney publicly praising him at a time “when journalists are being constantly attacked for doing our jobs.”
A transcript is below:
STEPHANIE RUHLE: Now to an exclusive NBC news interview with one-time trump foe and current Utah senate candidate Mitt Romney. Tonight is the first and only debate in the race for a Republican Senate nomination, with the primary just three weeks away. Romney appears to be shedding the die-hard never Trump posture we saw in 2016, playing it down the middle. My colleague Garrett Haake spoke exclusively with Romney. He joins us now from Salt Lake City. Garrett, it's not exactly fair to say Mitt Romney is now shedding the never Trump coat. It was soon after the President Trump won, the two of them were here at a French restaurant in new York City sharing frogs legs.
GARRETT HAAKE: Yes, that's right, Stephanie. For Romney, he has to walk a middle ground here with President Trump. It's fascinating to watch him do it in a campaign setting. Remember, Utah is a state where the President did not win in the primary but did win overwhelmingly in the general election. He's popular here, the president is, on policy. But some of his personal style rubs Utahan, heavily Mormon, very conservative socially, the wrong way. You see some of that with Romney. Romney is fluent on policy issues. Far more so than most Senate candidates. He can talk about immigration He can talk about education. But a lot of the interest in this race, particularly from outside, but even here in Utah, some of the questions he got last night, were about his relationship with President Trump. And the way he describes it is this, he says the president has exceeded expectations when it comes to policy.
He talks about the tax plan which is something he says he likes. He talks about deregulation which is something he says he likes. But he also says when the President says things that he believes are divisive or racist or misogynistic, he's going to call the president out on it, and that is a fine line to walk. I wanted to probe it a little bit further with him. I asked him whether or not he considers the president to be a role model. Take a listen.
MITT ROMNEY: I don't think I would point to the President as a role model to my grandchildren on the basis of his personal style. He's departed in some cases from the truth and attacked in a way that I don't think is not entirely appropriate. I think his policies have been, by and large, a good deal better than I might have expected. Some of the things he said are not ones that I would aspire for my grand kids to adopt.
HAAKE: So, Stephanie, Romney will be back on the debate stage, as you mentioned, for the only time in this Republican primary. He will likely be attacked from the right in this debate. But remember, he has the endorsement of Orrin Hatch, the senator he's trying to replace, and President Trump's endorsement. So it's an uphill fight for his primary opponent. But this idea of trying to drive a wedge between Romney and Trump is something that those on the far right may try to exploit tonight.