Mitt Romney For Senate?
A Utah politics writer is reporting that Mitt Romney is reportedly planning on running for a seat in the U.S. Senate in the event that Orrin Hatch retires:
Sources tell UtahPolicy.com that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is preparing to run for Senate in 2018 if Sen. Orrin Hatch decides to retire.
Sources close to Romney say the two-time presidential candidate will jump into the 2018 Utah Senate scrum if Hatch opts not to.
So far, Hatch has not made up his mind as to whether he’ll run for an eighth term in 2018. He has previously said he was planning on running as long as his and his wife’s health holds up.
Dave Hansen, a longtime political advisor to Hatch, told UtahPolicy.com last month that he didn’t expect Hatch to decide on his political future until October. However, sources now tell UtahPolicy.com that Hatch may not make up his mind until December.
Hatch’s reticence to make a definitive announcement is presenting other candidates from getting in the race, but Romney has the financial resources to mount a campaign no matter when Hatch decides.
Rep. Chris Stewart also has said he would like to jump into the race if Hatch decides against running for an eighth term next year.
This isn’t the first time that Romney’s name has come up in connection with the future of Hatch’s Senate seat. When he ran for his seventh term in 2012, Hatch had said that this would be his last term in office, thus seemingly putting an eventual end on a Senate career that began when he was first elected to the seat in 1976. At that time, of course, Republicans were still in the minority in the upper chamber and Hatch had already spent nearly forty years representing his home state. In 2014, though, Republicans gained control of the Senate and Hatch, as the longest-serving Republican Senator, became President Pro Tempore of the Senate, putting him third in the line of succession to the Presidency. Perhaps because of that, or perhaps because of his own concerns about the future of the Republican Party both in Utah and nationally, Hatch announced in March of this year that he would stand for an eighth term in office notwithstanding his announcement five years earlier, a decision which seemed to preclude what seemed likely to be a tough Republican battle to succeed him in office. One month later, though, there was some speculation that Hatch was reconsidering that decision and that Romney was considering stepping into the race should Hatch decide to retire after all. This news only came a few weeks after it was reported that Hatch had said that he would be willing to retire from the Senate if an “outstanding person” like Mitt Romney were to run in his stead. Today’s report seems to indicate that there’s still a possibility of this happening, but again it all depends on whether or not Hatch runs again since it’s clear that Romney would not enter the race if Hatch was running again.
As I noted back in April, if Romney did step into the race to replace Hatch it seems clear that he’d win easily. Romney won the state easily in the Republican Presidential Primary Election there in both 2008 and 2012. In fact, he was so popular among Utah Republicans that his adversaries in both elections barely bothered to campaign in the state. In the General Election in 2012, he beat former President Obama by nearly 500,000 votes. This was a huge margin of victory even for Utah, which has gone Republican in every election since 1968 and has only gone Democratic in two elections since World War Two, in 1948 and 1964. The former Massachusetts Governor remains popular in his home state, and a recent poll shows that he would win the seat easily if he did run. Whether this will be the news that causes Hatch to bow out of the race remains to be seen, though.
Given the current state of politics in Washington generally, and in the Republican Party specifically, Mitt Romney in the Senate would set up a rather interesting dynamic. While he declined to run a third time for the Republican nomination last year, there were multiple reports during the campaign that he was far from silent behind the scenes in the Republican Party nationally, and the battle among the candidates who did run for the large network of financial backers that he had developed was particularly fierce. Late in the race, though, Romney took on a more interesting role as a tough critic of Donald Trump. In March 2016, for example, Romney delivered a widely covered speech that was nothing less than a blistering attack on Trump that was particularly biting and quite frankly stronger than anything any of the 2016 candidates were saying at the time. Unfortunately, that speech and other moves by Romney came far too late in the process and did little to halt the momentum that Trump had built up that eventually won him the nomination. The speech did, however, lead to speculation about Romney stepping into the nomination fight at the last minute as part of an effort to stop Trump on the floor of the Republican National Convention, or even to run against him as an independent conservative alternative to Trump None of that speculation came true, of course, but it did indicate the extent to which Romney was still operating behind the scenes. Additionally, Romney was among the handful of top Republicans who declined to formally endorse Trump prior to the General Election and, much like the Bush family, there were rumors that he preferred Hillary Clinton to the Republican nominee. Despite that antipathy between Romney and Trump, Romney’s name was in the news again after the election with the possibility that he would be named Trump’s choice for Secretary of State. Were he to win election to the Senate, one wonders if Romney would return to his role as a Trump critic and, perhaps, a force in propelling some kind of challenge to Trump from within the party in the years ahead.