U.S. Senate candidate Mitt Romney spent much of a question-and-answer session in Provo Monday describing his relationship with President Donald Trump if elected, as well as establishing his conservative credentials.
Romney spoke to a crowd of a couple hundred at the Provo Library at an event sponsored by the Utah County Republican Women Monday afternoon.
Audience members were able to write questions for the former presidential candidate on note cards to have Romney answer them as they were read by a moderator.
One note card said that the person writing it, and all their Facebook friends, did not consider Romney to be very conservative, asking him whether he considered himself conservative, and if so, in what ways.
Romney said most people got to know his platforms during his 2012 presidential campaign, most of which were what he called “mainstream conservative.”
Romney went so far as to say he’s more conservative on certain issues than President Trump.
“For instance, I’m a deficit hawk,” Romney said. “That makes me more conservative than a lot of Republicans and a lot of Democrats. I’m also more of a hawk on immigration than even the president. My view was these DACA kids shouldn’t all be allowed to stay in the country legally.”
Trump had announced an end to the DACA program in 2017, which protects some young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children from deportation. However, in an attempt to make a deal with Democrats on the issue, Trump in February presented a plan that included a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million DACA recipients but was rejected by Democrats because of other changes to immigration included in the proposal. The omnibus bill signed by Trump on Friday did not include DACA.
Romney said that President Obama's and both parties wanting to allow the 1.8 million to stay in the country and give them legal residence was "not my posture."
“So I was more conservative than others in my party," Romney said. "Now I will accept the president’s view on this, but for me, I draw the line and say, those who’ve come illegally should not be given a special path to citizenship.”
Romney said he believes DACA recipients “need to do more” to justify permanent residency, such as attending community college, getting a degree, serving in the military or serving in needed occupations like teaching.
The Romney campaign later Tweeted out Romney's candidate certification paperwork he filed with the Utah Republican Party, "For those seeking clarification as to his stance on DACA."
The documents stated that the party platform conflicted with some of the immigration provisions proposed by the Trump administration and with which Romney agreed.
"Specifically, I believe the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) individuals should be given legal status," the document said. "I do not believe, however, that they should have a special pathway to citizenship. I support the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and believe the best way to fix birthright citizenship abuses, and retain the Constitution's provision, is to end chain migration."
Romney also fielded multiple questions on his relationship with Trump, which has been famously strained in the past, particularly when Romney gave a speech in 2016 calling Trump a phony and a fraud.
But Romney played his relationship with Trump off as a strength, not a weakness, when talking about his qualifications for U.S. Senate. His relationships with 40 U.S. Senators and the president are what will help him be effective as a Senator, Romney said.
“(Trump) has endorsed me in this race,” Romney said. “He respects people who speak their mind, because now and then, as you know, if he says something I think is wrong, I’ll point it out. And if he disagrees with me, he points it out even harder.”
Those existing relationships are part of why Romney said he believes he will be able to accomplish more than your average junior U.S. Senator.
“I understand there are (12) people running for this seat on our side of the aisle,” Romney said. “And my guess is we’ll all say about the same thing on issues. But I believe I can actually get stuff done.”
Romney, as he has since his campaign began, emphasized the ways he agrees with Trump on policy, rather than focusing on their past differences.
Romney said he agrees with Trump on lowing corporate tax rates, doing away with excessive federal regulations and the shrinking of two Utah national monuments that Romney said were a misuse of the Antiquities Act that allows for the President to create national monuments.
Despite focusing on similarities in policy with the president, Romney said he won’t be afraid to “call out” Trump on occasion.
“There are times when the president may have said something that is either racist, or anti-woman, that is divisive,” Romney said. “And if that happens, I’ll call him out on it.”
On a less serious note, Romney reminisced about the time he had spent in Provo during his years as a student at Brigham Young University. Coming back to Provo was like coming home, Romney said, and described meeting his wife in Provo, renting out their first apartment just blocks from the library for $62.50 a month and delivering their first son at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center.
Nineteen other candidates have filed for the U.S. Senate seat, which is being left vacant by retiring U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch. Those who filed include 12 Republicans, four Democrats and multiple third-party candidates.