Mitt Romney at a Republican National Committee meeting in Coronado in 2015. Photo by Chris Stone

By Colleen O’Connor

What a delicious and compelling election happening now. In a state nearby. Involving a former San Diegan.

And what a fight.

It’s Mitt Romney versus Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, Air Force One, and all the trappings of the Presidency that landed in Utah’s back yard on Monday.

Orrin Hatch, the state’s 83-year-old Senator, promised in his last re-election campaign that he would retire. Many in Utah political circles believed him. Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts and 2012 presidential candidate, believed him and geared up to run.

Indeed, in a recent poll, 75 percent of voters agreed that Hatch should retire and selected Mitt Romney as the runaway favorite with 44 percent. Hatch came in a distant third.

Then, the universe titled. Steve Bannon, the former White House advisor and self-appointed anti-establishment guru, turned his sights on Romney.

Which led to Monday’s well-orchestrated Trumpian arrival in Utah. Trump wants Hatch to undo his retirement pledge.

According to Politico, “The president’s mostly behind-the-scenes campaign to sway Hatch” will consist of a well-choreographed event designed to showcase his affection for the powerful Senate Finance Committee chairman.” Plus, the added pressure of a 9-hour round trip flight on Air Force One to seal the deal.

Why? Simple: Romney and Trump are character and ideological opposites.

“During the 2016 campaign, the former Massachusetts governor emerged as the de-facto leader of the GOP establishment’s “Never Trump” campaign, delivering a nationally-watched speech in which he blasted candidate Trump as a “phony, a fraud” and implored the party to stop him.

Trump, once elected, returned the favor, in his own fashion, and interviewed Romney for a position as Secretary of State. According to many observers, it was more to humiliate than to hire him.

Now the ghosts.

Mitt’s father, former Governor of Michigan George Romney, took on Barry Goldwater at the GOP convention in 1964, and implored delegates to stop his nomination for President as it would destroy the party.

Goldwater supporters chanted the genteel “In your heart, you know he’s right!’’ His opponents barked: “In your guts, you know he’s nuts!”

Rather tame compared to the “Lock her up” chants of the GOP 2016 race.

So, what should Romney do? Like father, like son? Run regardless of Trump and Bannon? Take a pass and leave the future to sort itself out? Or follow his own Presidential campaign slogan of “Believe” and take on all comers?

Think of it this way, Gov. Romney. Trump received just 46 percent of the vote in the heavily Republican state of Utah. You’re a moderate in a party and in an era Yeats once described as, “Things fall apart. The center cannot hold.”  You are well off, well educated, admirably disciplined with a class-act family. You have a moral compass and a dedication to public service.

So, what is stopping you?

If you’re still undecided, listen to the ghost of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a leader at another crossroad in U.S. history, and repeat after him, “I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made.” Even Trump tweeted the same quote in 2012.

So join the battle of enemies. It could be a defining moment in our nation’s history.

It would certainly be a great gift for political pundits this festive season.

Colleen O’Connor is a native San Diegan and a retired college professor.

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