On Feb. 19, President Trump endorsed Mitt Romney’s candidacy for the Senate seat of retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah. Romney accepted, and on its face this seems like a normal exchange of support and gracious acceptance between two prominent politicians: One is the sitting president and the other is a former presidential candidate who is considered an overwhelming favorite. But the relationship between Trump and Romney — who has been criticized for having particularly malleable positions — has followed a long and tortuous path to this point, and more twists and turns likely lie ahead. Here is a timeline of the more head-snapping reversals in recent years:
Feb. 2, 2012: Trump endorses Romney for president. “There are some things that you just can’t imagine happening in your life,” says Romney during a visit to Las Vegas. “This is one of them. Being in Donald Trump’s magnificent hotel and having his endorsement is a delight. I’m so honored and pleased to have his endorsement.”
“It’s my honor, real honor, and privilege to endorse Mitt Romney,” says Trump. “And by the way, this is a great couple. Do you look at this couple?”
March 28, 2012: Fox News floats the idea of Trump as a potential running mate for Romney.
May 29, 2012: Trump hosts a fundraiser for Romney at his hotel and casino in Las Vegas. Trump hosted a fundraiser for the birthday of Romney’s wife, Ann, at his Fifth Avenue home in April, but the joint public appearance is a big deal. Raising an estimated $2 million, the event comes just hours after Trump questioned President Barack Obama’s birth certificate on CNN, saying, “A lot of people do not think it was an authentic certificate.”
August 2012: Romney officially receives the Republican nomination for president. Trump was scheduled to visit the convention in Tampa and, according to the Washington Post, was set to do a “surprise” publicity stunt on the convention floor at Romney’s request. Trump is unable to travel because of Hurricane Isaac.
Nov. 6, 2012: Romney loses the presidential election.
Nov. 8, 2012: Trump tweets: “Romney campaign used me in 6 primary states and won every one- they should have used me in Florida and Ohio & he would be President.”
June 16, 2015: Trump declares his candidacy for president.
Sept. 1, 2015: As Trump gains momentum in the Republican primary race, New York Magazine reports that Romney is considering getting into the race to combat Trump. “He’s someone to whom civility means a lot. The whole Trump thing really bothers him,” says a close Romney adviser.
February 2016: Trump bashes Romney as “goofy,” “awkward,” and “one of the dumbest and worst candidates in the history of Republican politics.”
Mitt Romney, who was one of the dumbest and worst candidates in the history of Republican politics, is now pushing me on tax returns. Dope!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 25, 2016
When Mitt Romney asked me for my endorsement last time around, he was so awkward and goofy that we all should have known he could not win!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 24, 2016
March 3, 2016: Romney delivers a lengthy speech at the University of Utah criticizing Trump.
“Think of Donald Trump’s personal qualities,” says Romney. “The bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third-grade theatrics. You know, we have long referred to him as ‘The Donald.’ He’s the only person in the entire country to whom we have added an article before his name, and it was not because he had attributes we admired.”
“There’s plenty of evidence that Mr. Trump is a con man, a fake,” Romney continues. “Mr. Trump has changed his positions not just over the years, but over the course of the campaign. And on the Ku Klux Klan, daily for three days in a row.”
“If Trump had said 4 years ago the things he says today about the KKK, Muslims, Mexicans, disabled, I would NOT have accepted his endorsement,” Romney adds on Twitter.
Trump responds: “Why did Mitt Romney BEG me for my endorsement four years ago?”
March 14, 2016: Romney campaigns with Gov. John Kasich in Ohio.
March 18, 2016: Romney announces his intention to vote for Sen. Ted Cruz in the Utah nominating caucuses.
May 11, 2016: Romney posts to Facebook criticizing Trump for not releasing his tax returns. “It is disqualifying for a modern-day presidential nominee to refuse to release tax returns to the voters, especially one who has not been subject to public scrutiny in either military or public service,” writes Romney.
Oct. 7, 2016: Romney responds to the leaked “Access Hollywood” tape in which Trump seems to admit to sexual harassment by writing on Twitter, “Hitting on married women? Condoning assault? Such vile degradations demean our wives and daughters and corrupt America’s face to the world.”
Nov. 8, 2016: Trump wins the presidential election.
Nov. 19, 2016: Reportedly under consideration to be secretary of state, Romney visits Trump at his golf club in New Jersey. The two shake hands, and afterward Romney says they had a “very thorough and in-depth discussion.”
Nov. 29, 2016: Romney goes to dinner with Trump. Afterward, he praises his dining companion to gathered reporters.
“I had a wonderful evening with President-elect Trump,” says Romney. “We had another discussion about affairs throughout the world, and these discussions I’ve had with him have been enlightening, and interesting, and engaging. I’ve enjoyed them very, very much. I was also very impressed by the remarks he made on his victory night.”
A photo of the meeting with a seemingly very uncomfortable Romney goes viral.
Dec. 12, 2016: Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson is announced as the pick for secretary of state.
Trump adviser Roger Stone says Trump never really considered Romney for a cabinet position but simply wanted to embarrass him.
“Donald Trump was interviewing Mitt Romney for secretary of state in order to torture him,” Stone says during an Infowars appearance. “To toy with him. And given the history, that’s completely understandable.”
“It was an honor to have been considered for Secretary of State of our great country,” Romney writes on Facebook. “My discussions with President-elect Trump have been both enjoyable and enlightening. I have very high hopes that the new administration will lead the nation to greater strength, prosperity and peace.”
Aug. 18, 2017: After Trump fails to condemn white supremacists for the death of demonstrator Heather Heyer at a protest in Charlottesville, Va., Romney condemns the president’s remarks.
“Whether he intended to or not, what he communicated caused racists to rejoice, minorities to weep, and the vast heart of America to mourn,” says Romney. “His apologists strain to explain that he didn’t mean what we heard. But what we heard is now the reality, and unless it is addressed by the president as such, with unprecedented candor and strength, there may commence an unraveling of our national fabric.”
Jan. 15, 2018: On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Romney criticizes Trump for the use of the term “shithole countries.” “The poverty of an aspiring immigrant’s nation of origin is as irrelevant as their race,” writes Romney. “The sentiment attributed to POTUS is inconsistent w/ America’s history and antithetical to American values. May our memory of Dr. King buoy our hope for unity, greatness, & ‘charity for all.’”
Feb. 16, 2018: Romney announces he is running for Senate.
Feb. 19, 2018: Trump endorses Romney, writing that Romney “will make a great Senator and worthy successor to Orrin Hatch, and has my full support and endorsement.”
Thirty-five minutes later, Romney accepts Trump’s endorsement: “Thank you Mr. President for the support. I hope that over the course of the campaign I also earn the support and endorsement of the people of Utah.”
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