George Frey/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
Now playing
03:25
Mitt Romney's complex approach to Trump
CNN
Now playing
02:58
Avlon: This shows that crazy has a constituency
CNN
Now playing
07:27
CNN anchor pushes back on Texas state lawmaker's defense of voting bill
CNN
Now playing
01:12
Tapper asks Buttigieg for infrastructure plan timeline
Now playing
02:48
GOP governor calls Trump's RNC remarks 'divisive'
WASHINGTON, D.C. - APRIL 19, 2018:  The U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C., is the seat of the Supreme Court of the United States and the Judicial Branch of government. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)
Robert Alexander/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, D.C. - APRIL 19, 2018: The U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C., is the seat of the Supreme Court of the United States and the Judicial Branch of government. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:39
SCOTUS blocks California Covid restriction on religious activities
rep jim clyburn georgia voting law jim crow sot sotu vpx_00000000.png
rep jim clyburn georgia voting law jim crow sot sotu vpx_00000000.png
Now playing
02:13
Rep. Clyburn blasts GA voting law: It's the 'new Jim Crow'
Joe Manchin
CNN
Joe Manchin
Now playing
02:03
'I never thought in my life ...' Why Manchin won't walk away from bipartisanship
Gaetz speaks to members of the media outside the hearing Michael Cohen, former attorney and fixer for President Donald Trump, testifies at before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform at Rayburn House Office Building February 27, 2019 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Last year Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay a $50,000 fine for tax evasion, making false statements to a financial institution, unlawful excessive campaign contributions and lying to Congress as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
Gaetz speaks to members of the media outside the hearing Michael Cohen, former attorney and fixer for President Donald Trump, testifies at before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform at Rayburn House Office Building February 27, 2019 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Last year Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay a $50,000 fine for tax evasion, making false statements to a financial institution, unlawful excessive campaign contributions and lying to Congress as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections.
Now playing
06:11
'Bombastic, antagonistic, unapologetic': A look at Gaetz's political career
Former House Speaker John Boehner attends a ceremony to unveil a portrait of himself on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019 in Washington.
Michael A. McCoy/AP
Former House Speaker John Boehner attends a ceremony to unveil a portrait of himself on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019 in Washington.
Now playing
02:42
Boehner says Republican colleague held 10-inch knife to his throat outside House floor
President Joe Biden, accompanied by Vice President Kamala Harris, and Attorney General Merrick Garland, speaks about gun violence prevention in the Rose Garden at the White House, Thursday, April 8, 2021, in Washington.
Andrew Harnik/AP
President Joe Biden, accompanied by Vice President Kamala Harris, and Attorney General Merrick Garland, speaks about gun violence prevention in the Rose Garden at the White House, Thursday, April 8, 2021, in Washington.
Now playing
02:05
Biden calls for ban on assault weapons
CNN
Now playing
02:22
Biden: High-speed internet is infrastructure
AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
03:24
Donald Trump breaks his silence on Matt Gaetz
CNN/WLOX
Now playing
01:43
'He says the quiet part out loud': Borger reacts to GOP election official's remark
AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
02:30
Haberman: Trump had to be talked out of defending Matt Gaetz
CNN
Now playing
03:26
Georgia's Lt. governor says elections law was a result of Trump's misinformation

Sen.-elect Mitt Romney sits down for a live interview with Jake Tapper on “The Lead” at 4 p.m. ET today on CNN.

(CNN) —  

There’s a tendency to assume Mitt Romney’s op-ed critical of President Donald Trump is a big deal.

After all, Romney not only was the party’s 2012 presidential nominee but is also set to become a senator from Utah this week. And what he wrote was deeply critical of the way in which Trump has approached the presidency. Of Trump, Romney wrote: “His conduct over the past two years, particularly his actions this month, is evidence that the President has not risen to the mantle of the office.”

The Romney op-ed, which ran in The Washington Post, got A LOT of attention – as he (and we) knew it would. And Trump responded – “Here we go with Mitt Romney, but so fast!” – as he (and we) knew he would.

It was all a Very Big Deal.

But here’s the thing: I am very skeptical that any of this matters at all – in terms of how Trump conducts himself and/or how the elected Republican leaders in Washington interact and react to him.

The first observation is patently obvious to anyone who has watched Trump’s presidency – or his life. He is who he is. The chances a 70+-year-old man who is currently the President of the United States changes his approach to life because a politician who has long been a critic writes an op-ed are, roughly, 0%.

If you need proof of that – and if the first two years of Trump’s presidency aren’t proof enough – simply look to his tweeted response to Romney’s op-ed – in which he urges the soon-to-be Utah senator to “be a TEAM player & WIN!”

The second thought – that Romney’s op-ed will change nothing about how Republican senators and House members interact with Trump – is also based on recent observations.

Take Romney. Yes, he was the most high-profile critic of Trump – at least among those Republicans not running against him – during the 2016 primary race. Romney gave a speech during the spring of 2016 in which he blasted Trump, saying, among other things, that “dishonesty is Donald Trump’s hallmark.”

And yet, after Trump won, Romney met with him when the President was apparently weighing naming the former Massachusetts governor as secretary of state. While Romney was occasionally critical of Trump during the 2018 Senate campaign, he said and did nothing even close to as overt as this Post op-ed when it could have hurt him electorally.

Romney’s record of opposition to Trump is not entirely consistent, to put it nicely. Who’s to say that he will keep it up for the next two years (or longer)?

Even if Romney does keep it up, there’s reason for skepticism that his critique of Trump’s approach to the presidency will have any actual impact on his colleagues. Over the past two years, Trump had several prominent Republican critics in the Senate – Jeff Flake, John McCain and Bob Corker being the three best known. This is not a thank-God-someone-finally-said-it! sort of moment.

Flake was driven into retirement by his anti-Trump views. Corker’s political strength was affected as well, and he decided not to run again. McCain, afflicted with terminal brain cancer, passed away last year.

And for all of their speaking out and appealing to the better angels within their colleagues’ hearts and minds, Flake, McCain and Corker had zero measurable impact on rallying the Senate (or the House) against Trump.

If anything, they served as examples of what not to do – challenge Trump and watch your base run away from you, never to come back.

The Republican Party – as reflected by its elected officials in the House and Senate – became more pro-Trump between the end of 2016 and the end of 2018. It did so for a variety of reasons, the main ones being: 1) to accomplish long-standing goals like a major tax cut or the confirmation of a slew of judges from the Supreme Court on down 2) to survive politically.

The belief that op-eds like Romney’s might change things within the Republican establishment are, therefore, based on a false premise: That there is any sort of measurable Republican Party outside of those who align with Trump.

There is not. The 2018 election showed that. The path to victory for Republican candidates – particularly in GOP primaries – was to get as close to Trump as possible and never let go. Distancing yourself from the President was a recipe for Republican disaster.

Romney’s op-ed is then rightly understood not as a political earthquake but as a lone scream into the void. Sure, Trump has flatly rejected the idea of the presidency as a position of moral leadership. And yes, his policies are a clear break from what the GOP stood for even a few years ago.

But the idea that an op-ed will change how Romney’s soon-to-be Republican colleagues will act toward Trump between now and the 2020 election is a total and complete fallacy. That ship sailed a long time ago. And no words written in a Washington Post op-ed are going to bring it back into harbor.