The architect of Obamacare is not the alternative that conservatives should seek.
Mitt Romney is a nice guy. In fact, he is a very nice guy. He would have been a good President who would have made a lot of decisions that I disagreed with and a lot I would have agreed with. He'd have no more reduced the size of the government than Trump has, would not have started a trade war or crapped on our allies, would have pushed tax reform, but would have probably abandoned Brett Kavanaugh pretty quickly and arguably would not have fought as hard overall for the judges Trump has back. Under Romney or Trump, we'd be where we are with Obamacare. In terms of policy, Romney would not be much different from Trump except on trade and allied relations and, more importantly, Trump won and Romney lost.
Romney is level headed and even keeled and he thinks character counts. What he said about Donald Trump was right and most of the people screaming loudly at Romney and pushing back against him think the same thing.
Hang out in the Fox News greenroom and you'll hear a lot of people who love the President on TV say things very critically of him off camera. Last year, I had the experience of walking through a Safeway grocery story with a member of Congress who'd been on TV praising the President and then disparaged the man to me. It happens pretty frequently.
Romney's sin was not aiding the Democrats or providing them ammunition against the President. Hell, the President handed the suburbs to the Democrats, not Romney. Romney's sin was to say publicly what so many say privately, thereby putting these other people in awkward positions.
Romney's critics have a valid point in what has become the settled criticism. Romney seemingly played nice with the President when his name was floated for Secretary of State. He invited the President onto the campaign trail and accepted the President's endorsement. Only now, after being elected, does he criticize the President's character -- the character that was well established before Romney accepted Trump's senatorial endorsement.
Still, it is worth noting that all the criticisms of Romney ignore that none of his critics actually take issue with his underlying statement. Everyone agrees with Romney about the President's character. They just don't like that he said it publicly for various reasons.
There is a ridiculousness now to the idea that Romney v. Trump is a binary choice and any defense or praise of Romney is somehow declaring oneself on "Team Romney."
Mitt Romney is a very nice man who laid the foundation for Obamacare. He ran as a moderate and then ran as a "severe conservative" and lost to Barack Obama. He surrounded himself with advisors, some of whom now aggressively cheer on the Democrats because of Trump.
Like Donald Trump, Mitt Romney speaks conservatism as a second, foreign language, but Trump mastered the language of populism in ways Romney never did. Romney v. Trump is not a fight that will really happen despite the wishes of some and fears of others. Mitt Romney represents the most Republican state in America and that state saw 21% of its voters vote third party in 2016 because Utah voters believe character counts. Romney represents those people and what you or I say doesn't really matter. As long as Utah backs him, he gets to be one of one hundred senators and he'll be a pretty reliable vote for the President's agenda to boot.
Romney has as much right as anyone else to pen an op-ed saying these things publicly that others say privately. Whether he should have is another issue. What is a non-issue, however, is Romney as an alternative to Trump. The GOP rejected him once and the nation rejected him the second time. There's no going back to Romney now.
All that said, it is inarguable that Mitt Romney is right about President Trump's character and it is inarguable that Romney has finer character and is a more decent person. And I suspect that has a lot to do with the outrage of so many. The GOP lost in 2012 and many of its voters concluded it was Romney's perceived unwillingness to fight hard or be too nice that cost them. And now they resent being reminded they abandoned character to win at all costs a war they increasingly suspect they're going to lose because of the unstable leader who won the first battle.