A firestorm of speculation erupted earlier in January when a sharp-eyed reporter noticed Mitt Romney had changed his location on Twitter from Massachusetts to Holladay, Utah. (Romney actually changed residency to Utah in 2013.)
Just that morning, Senator Orrin Hatch (R) had released his ‘intention to retire’ video. Therefore, it is no surprise that Romney loyalists immediately launched rumors of his possible willingness to become the new ‘Junior Senator’ from Utah.
Hatch, 83, cited a desire to spend more time with his wife and family as reasons for not seeking reelection this year. Hatch also acknowledged he is a ‘fighter’ as observed by President Trump. But, Hatch went on to note “every good fighter knows when it is time to hang up the gloves.”
During his forty-plus-year term in the Senate, Hatch stated he has been instrumental in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Religious Freedom Restoration Act and, most recently the Comprehensive Tax Cut and Reform Bill. Hatch has also been a loyal Trump supporter and frequently bipartisan political leader, leaving arguably big shoes to fill come November.
While even those closest to Romney claim ‘no decision has yet been made’ — others are making it clear that the senate seat is ‘his for the asking.’
One Romney confidant observed that Tuesday was ‘Orrin’s day’ and that Romney would not ‘intrude’ on that. In a Facebook post, Romney stated, “I join the people of Utah in thanking my friend, Senator Orrin Hatch for his more than forty years of service to our great state and nation.”
Romney, 70, served as the Governor of Massachusetts from 2003-2007, first ran for president in 2008 and lost the primary to John McCain. Romney made a second presidential bid in 2012, and the Republican candidate lost to incumbent Barack Obama following a successful primary bid.
Interestingly, should he choose to run for the seat Hatch will vacate, it would not be Romney’s first attempt to become a senator; he lost a very closely contested race to Democrat Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts in 1994.
Romney’s potential re-entry into the political arena presents immediate problems with his own base. Donald Trump backed Mitt Romney in his 2012 presidential race, but Romney did not return the favor, either during Trump’s successful 2017 presidential campaign or since. He refused to endorse Trump as the Republican candidate; a move that many in President Trump’s loyal base will not forget — Trump won Utah in the presidential race by over 200,000 votes.
Romney repeatedly called Trump a ‘phony’ and a ‘fraud’ during the lively 2016 Republican primary season. And while it appeared for a while that Romney was being considered for the Secretary of State position in the Trump cabinet, Romney did not hesitate to make it clear he remains almost fiercely anti-Trump, recently stating that a Roy Moore win in Alabama would be a ‘stain on the nation’. Moore received Trump’s support for the senate seat.
Utah’s other senator, Mike Lee (R), while initially anti-Trump, has since expressed agreement with a number of President Trump’s moves, including withdrawal from the Paris Accord; Lee also voted for the comprehensive tax bill in the senate.
“Mitt Romney is a good man,” Lee tweeted in December. “Whether you agree or disagree with him on any matter of public policy, you can’t credibly call into question his patriotism or moral character.”
Evan McMullin, ‘never Trumper’ and former presidential candidate has been urging Romney to run for the Senate seat since Hatch announced his retirement. McMullin tweeted a message to Orrin Hatch thanking him for his service, then adding that he hoped Mitt Romney would be the leader selected to ‘…meet the challenges of our …future.’
Utah Governor Gary Herbert is also encouraging a Romney call.
“He will be an instant celebrity in the Senate” the governor said. “That’s a good thing for Utah.”
In an October Salt Lake Tribune Poll, 44 percent of those surveyed reported they would back Romney in a hypothetical field of candidates that included Hatch. The poll reported that the only other candidate to reach double digits was Democrat Jenny Wilson, a Salt Lake County Councilwoman who received 15 percent.
A number of Romney confidants have said he is definitely considering the Senate run. Longtime Romney fundraiser Spencer Zwick told the New York Times “…of all the people who can run, Mitt will represent and honor the legacy of Senator Hatch more than anybody…”
Romney has since declined to comment on the matter himself.
~ Liberty Planet