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Mitt Romney has decided the cliché “Flattery will get you nowhere’ doesn’t apply to Donald Trump.

The same man who throughout the campaign accused Trump of everything from fraudulence to “trickle-down racism” and “trickle-down misogyny” delivered more than 300 words of public praise for the president-elect Tuesday night.

Praising Trump’s early appointments and expressing his belief that America’s best days are still ahead, Romney said “all of those things combined give me increasing hope that President-elect Trump is the man who can lead us to that better future.”

Romney’s anti-Trump speeches had no impact on the primaries or the general election campaign, other than possibly narrowing the 2016 GOP nominee’s margins in safe Republican states like Utah. His milder pro-Trump remarks might be good enough to make him secretary of state. They certainly have earned him a place at the table.

Some of this is clearly intended to explain why Romney would be willing to seek a spot in the Trump administration after savaging him for most of 2016. He is saying that Trump appears serious about governing within the Republican mainstream and that his (non-Twitter) tone has improved.

But Romney has obviously learned that flattering Trump is a more effective way of influencing him than criticizing him. He is not the first bitter rival to come to that conclusion.

President Barack Obama’s criticisms of Trump on the campaign trail were every bit as withering as Romney’s. Obama said he did not believe Trump was qualified to be president of the United States. White House spokesman Josh Earnest has said more than once that Obama’s opinions on that subject haven’t changed.

But since Trump has won, Obama has gone out of his way to talk up the president-elect’s pragmatism and practicality. Obama has made time for Trump both in the White House and on the phone.

The result has been a palpable thawing of relations between the president and the man who did more than anyone else to push the birther conspiracy theory. And it has given Obama at least some influence over his successor, including on how the Republican will try to change Obamacare once in office.

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“I told [Obama] I will look at his suggestions, and out of respect, I will do that,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal. He went out of his way to praise Obama’s intelligence during his meeting with the New York Times.

Even the Clintons have learned the benefits of adopting a softer tone with Trump. Hillary Clinton conceded relatively quickly given the closeness of the race. Bill Clinton also called to congratulate Trump the next day.

Trump had floated the idea of appointing a special prosecutor to re-open the email probe against his general election foe. During Trump rallies, supporters chanted “Lock her up!” He hasn’t sounded so inclined to do that since becoming president-elect.

“They’re good people,” Trump said of the Clintons in a post-election interview. “I don’t want to hurt them.” He suggested in a debate that Hillary should be in jail and labeled Bill a rapist during the campaign.

It’s worth noting that Trump had previously been friendly with the Clintons and that even during the heat of the campaign he said he would defer to his attorney general on any Clinton investigations. But the Clinton’s private praise probably had some impact.

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“The key to understanding Trump is that he wants to be loved,” said a Republican strategist. That will make him want to be successful, the strategist said, and will also affect how he deals with people.

Or as Washington Examiner commentary editor Tim Carney said of Trump, “He judges other people and determines how to treat them based on how they treat him.”

Never Trump was unrelentingly hostile to the president-elect in the Republican primaries and the general election. But it was always predicated on beating Trump. Now that he has won, some Trump critics have decided a different tactic is in order.

Based on Romney’s meetings with Trump, it looks like this one might be more effective.

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