Ever since Donald Trump was elected president, one key question has dominated lots of the debate during the transition: Who will be secretary of state? The top contenders for the job have long appeared to be Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani. But it seems Romney’s star is fading—fast. Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s former campaign manager and now a top adviser, didn’t hold back on her criticism of Romney during a tour of the Sunday talk shows, making it clear she doesn’t think the former Massachusetts governor should be secretary of state.
“I’m all for party unity, but I’m not sure we have to pay for that with the secretary of state position,” Conway said on CNN’s State of the Union.
Speaking on ABC’s This Week, Conway noted that Romney didn’t just fail to support Trump, he actively opposed him. “I think that there was the Never Trump movement and then there was Gov. Mitt Romney,” Conway said. “He went out of his way to hurt Donald Trump. He gave two speeches that I can recall in this calendar year, and they were both about Donald Trump.”
Conway refused to specify whether Trump knew, and approved, of her anti-Romney campaign. When ABC’s Martha Raddatz asked her about that directly, Conway was decidedly vague: “I won’t discuss that.” But she did say that at the end of the day Trump would be the one to make the decision and she would back him. “There’s one person that will select his cabinet, and it’s President-elect Donald Trump,” she said. “Whatever he decides will have my full support and respect and he knows that.”
On NBC’s Meet the Press, Conway said she was just trying to reflect what “the grassroots are saying” when it comes to the possibility of appointing Romney. “People feel betrayed to think that Governor Romney, who went out of his way to question the character and the intellect and the integrity of Donald Trump, now our president-elect, would be given the most significant cabinet post of all, secretary of state,” she said.
Sunday was not the first time Conway criticized Romney. Earlier in the week, she had taken to Twitter to note the “deluge of social media & private comms” against Romney as secretary of state from Trump loyalists. “I felt compelled to come forward on behalf of the people who were weighing in,” Conway said of that tweet.
But she went further on Sunday, even questioning whether Romney was qualified for the job. “Gov. Romney in the last four years, I mean, has he been around the globe doing something on behalf of the United States of which we’re unaware? Did he go and intervene in Syria, where they’re having a massive humanitarian crisis?” Conway asked. “Has he been helpful to Mr. Netanyahu?”
Other Trump allies have also spoken up to try to dissuade the president elect from appointing one of his strongest critics to the State Department. “It’s not about that I don’t care for Mitt personally, but I’m still very unhappy that Mitt did everything he could to derail Donald Trump,” Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee told Fox News earlier in the week. “He didn’t just go after him from a standpoint of saying I disagree with his policy on immigration or I disagree with his policy on taxes. He attacked him on a personal level about his character, integrity, his honor.”
Newt Gingrich has also joined the chorus of voices speaking up against Romney. “Trump’s got to have somebody at state who’s very tough and very willing to take on foreign leaders,” Gingrich said on Fox News Tuesday night. “I can think of 20 other people who would be more naturally compatible with the Trump vision of foreign policy.”
While those who are anti-Romney are usually seen as being in favor of Giuliani as America’s top diplomat, others say Trump shouldn’t limit his options to the two men and would serve his administration well by expanding his search to other candidates, according to the Wall Street Journal.