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Republicans In Utah Blast Romney For Trump Impeachment Guilty Vote

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The Senate vote to acquit President Trump yesterday was almost entirely along party lines, with one very large exception. Utah Senator Mitt Romney made an emotional speech on the Senate floor, broke with his party and voted to convict the president on one of two articles of impeachment.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MITT ROMNEY: My promise before God to apply impartial justice required that I put my personal feelings and political biases aside.

INSKEEP: Romney said the facts were obvious, and his oath mattered. He's now catching criticism for his vote, including from some Republicans in his home state of Utah. From KUER in Salt Lake City, Sonja Hutson reports.

SONJA HUTSON, BYLINE: Utah has voted for Republicans in every presidential election since 1964. But President Trump has never been popular here. He earned just 45% of the vote in 2016. And his approval ratings have hovered around 50% since then.

Fifty-two-year-old Lana Jones, who was visiting the state capitol, is a registered Republican. She's thinking about becoming independent because she says Democrats and Republicans have become hyper-partisan and divisive. Jones says she's happy that Romney's impeachment vote was not.

LANA JONES: I'm glad he was willing to cross the party line and vote his conscience.

HUTSON: Plus, Jones says, the president deserves to be removed.

JONES: Trump seems to think he is above the law and has crossed all kinds of boundaries - legal boundaries, civil boundaries. His manner has not befitted the office of the president.

HUTSON: But many Republicans have more complicated feelings. The state's Republican Party said they strongly disagree with Romney's vote. Forty-five-year-old Garrick Hall, another registered Republican, does, too.

GARRICK HALL: Just due to the history of his, quite frankly, his hatred of Trump, it's a hard sell to say he's doing it because he feels it's right.

HUTSON: Romney's approval rating here isn't any better than Trump's. It slid 9 points late last year and now sits at 48% percent, according to a poll by Morning Consult. But he's not up for reelection until 2024. Hall supported Romney in 2018, but might change his vote next time.

HALL: This is certainly a factor. I think there've been a lot of - a number of issues where I just don't know if he's represented Utah.

HUTSON: Hall's not alone in thinking Romney has turned his back on Utah Republicans. An effort to recall the senator sprung up last year before impeachment proceedings began. The group's focus right now is to put an initiative on the ballot to allow recall elections, and it has a Facebook group with over 7,000 members. Larry Meyers is one of the organizers.

LARRY MEYERS: There's a lot of issues that I disagreed with him on - his views on abortion, his support for socialized medicine, which was, you know, Romneycare in Massachusetts.

HUTSON: Romney said he expected criticism for his vote, but had to do what he thought was right.

For NPR News, I'm Sonja Hutson in Salt Lake City. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.