The US Senate. The world's greatest deliberative body. Or... something like that.
Utah Senator Orrin Hatch is retiring. Hatch is a little weasel. Why does anyone retire? That is always difficult to assess because nobody ever gives a fully honest reason. It is worth taking a moment to recall Robert Bennett, the former Senator from... Utah! In 2010, Bennett was Hatch's colleague, and he had his name removed from the Republican primary ballot by Utah's Republican Party officials in a demonstration of Utah's bizarre nominating rules. Why? Bennett was a conservative, but not a teabagger. He had even... [gasp]... worked with Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) on a bipartisan healthcare proposal during the Obamacare debates. So, off with his head.
Bennett's removal from the Republican primary ballot led to Mike Lee's election, and is commonly reported as a Republican incumbent "getting primaried," even though Bennett didn't make it to the primary. Utah's rules screwed him. Regardless, prior to the Bennett incident, Hatch was a hardline conservative, but not a partisan guy. Partisanship and ideology aren't really the same things! Hatch liked to work with Ted Kennedy (he of the drunk driving murder incident) whenever he could, and tout his record of bipartisanship whenever possible. That stopped in 2010, and Hatch became a partisan warrior, just like every other teabagger. Why? Bob Bennett. He's a cowardly little shit, but not a stupid one.
However, Hatch was never a natural teabagger. He's an institutionalist. He has been in the Senate for decades, and all of those bipartisan deals he has cut... they don't go away. True teabaggers will never fully trust him. He got through 2012, but would he have gotten through 2018? He had Trump's support. What about Bannon? You know, the guy who helped Roy Moore? There was a risk.
This brings me to a basic point from Gary Jacobson and Samuel Kernell's Strategy and Choice in Congressional Elections. Sometimes, the best move is to retire strategically. It might be better than running the risk of losing. With the Trumpification and Roy Moore-ification of the party, yeah, Hatch can play the role, but he's basically a throwback. That, in his mind, put him at risk. As I keep writing, this risk is overstated because so few incumbents have actually been primaried for being insufficiently pure, but... one can tell that story, right? (And hey, Bennett was in Utah!)
Here's where the whole thing falls apart. Mitt Romney. This story doesn't make any sense if Hatch is to be replaced by Mitt Romney. Romney has tried to position himself as an opponent of the batshit crazy wing. He tried to lead the neverTrumpers back in 2016, although he humiliated himself for Donny-boy when he thought Trump was offering him Sec. State, even though it was obvious Trump was just fucking with him. If Hatch is stepping aside and making way for Romney, then the name that comes to mind is another name I have mentioned a few times, but that nobody else seems to be able to recall...
Tim Huelskamp. Huelskamp was Kansas ultraconservative who got primaried for being too conservative, and lost to a Chamber of Commerce-type, Roger Marshall, in 2016. If the GOP is actually trying to clear the field for Romney while Romney tries to lead the anti-Trump Republicans, then we need to remember Tim Huelskamp.
Why am I the only one who remembers that dude? People still go around saying that Bob Bennett lost a primary for being too moderate even though he never even made it to the primary, but nobody says jack shit about Tim Huelskamp!
So, what happens if/when Romney gets to the Senate? I got not clue.
Particularly if he is accompanied by... excuse me while I swoon for a moment... Michele Bachmann! Yes, she may be returning to my life, even though she never left my heart! Oh, Michele! How I have missed you! That's right, Dearest Lady Bachmann, when will you realize that Marcus... just isn't going to be able to give you what you need? I am here for you, though!
Yes, Sweet Michele may run for Al Franken's Senate seat. Please run for that seat! Yes, we have Greg Gianfort, who body-slams reporters, and there will always be Louis Gohmert, whose name sounds exactly like his IQ. There's Sheila Jackson Lee-- the most famously horrible boss in history, but as my students and other readers know, Bachmann will always be first in my heart, when it comes to people who have no business being anywhere near the levers of power.
Would she win? Um... Well, back in 2010, I actually estimated how much of the vote she lost in her campaign on the basis of her "infamy." By my estimate, 6.76 percentage points. That's a lot to give up. The GOP would do well to try to find a better candidate. Is she Roy Moore? No, but she's not a strong candidate. She's too obviously stupid, and not in a Trumpian way, which appeals to "authoritarian personality" types. The GOP can still probably keep the Senate this year, but if they nominate dipshits like Michele Bachmann, well... say hello to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Although, "Senator Michele Bachmann" has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?