Mitt Romney has become a controversial figure within the Republican Party. Esteemed by his fellow Mormons but scorned by the GOP’s growing pro-Trump wing, Romney is playing a unique balancing act between relevancy and irrelevancy.
Now the former presidential candidate is reportedly leveraging his popularity within his adopted state of Utah to seek office once again. According to local news source KSL, Romney is preparing to run for Senate in Utah if the state’s current senior senator, Orrin Hatch (R-UT), decides to retire in 2018.
Unnamed sources close to Romney told the publication Utah Policy that Romney will run if Hatch, who is currently serving his seventh senatorial term, should step down. Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts who has since relocated to Utah, would likely beat Democrat Senate candidate Jenny Wilson, according to Utah Policy‘s polling.
Romney is unpopular with the nationalist, populist Republican base that gave Donald Trump his 2016 election victory. As Yahoo Finance notes, Romney was heavily critical of Trump during the campaign.
“His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University,” Romney said of Trump. He’s playing members of the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House, and all we get is a lousy hat.”
The attacks promoted observers to accuse Romney of attacking Trump more than he had Obama during the 2012 election. As CNN notes, Romney was widely perceived as having been bested at the final 2012 presidential debate despite a strong performance at the first debate.
The backtrack was not lost on Trump. As covered by the Washington Times, Trump argued that Romney “choked like a dog” on the campaign trail, failing to energize the base. Trump endorsed Romney in 2012, as reported by the New York Times.
As seen at Town Hall, commentator Pat Buchanan compared Romney’s opposition to Trump to his father George Romney’s refusal to back GOP presidential nominee Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) in the 1964 election. The move created an impression of betrayal that sunk the senior Romney’s political career.
Romney not only criticized Trump but also joined with Weekly Standard founder Bill Kristol to fund a third-party alternative to Trump–an action that would have siphoned off votes from Trump and helped Clinton’s election chances. Romney eventually lent his support to independent candidate Evan McMullin, a former CIA operations officer.
As Deseret News reported, McMullin sent emails to voters using a mailing list provided to him by Mitt Romney. McMullin’s biggest support was in Utah. According to Politico, the conservative Independent candidate won 21 percent of the state’s votes on election night. McMullin has remained a frequent detractor of President Trump.
Romney was briefly courted by the Trump transition team for a cabinet position. The two even had a highly-publicized meeting at the exclusive Jean-Georges restaurant in New York, as reported by NBC News.
Nevertheless, Romney has been derided by Trump’s base. As Breitbart reports, Romney recently joined fellow Republicans Marco Rubio (R-FL), and John McCain (R-AZ), in indirectly praising the violent left-wing group Antifa after the tragic deaths at Charlottesville, Virginia. The remarks further alienated the failed presidential candidate from Republicans.
Romney may run for 2018 senate seat in Utah. Would you support him?
Yet Romney remains uniquely popular in Utah, which has a high Mormon population. Romney is Mormon himself, and his membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was a widely-discussed topic in the 2012 election. As noted on Wikipedia, Romney is the second cousin of famous Mormon leader Marion G. Romney.
Romney also gained support in Utah after helping save the scandal-ridden 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic games, as covered by Time. Utah is likely the only state in which Romney could still be elected as a Republican. If Romney were to run, he would likely win decisively.