Mitt Romney has privately committed to running for Senate in Utah, confirming rampant speculation surrounding the former Massachusetts governor’s political future sparked by his fellow Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch’s retirement.
Romney, a Michigan native and longtime Massachusetts resident, has yet to commit publicly to a Senate run in his newfound home state of Utah, but has done as much privately in a Jan. 6 text to his close friend and prominent Utah businessman Kem Gardner, according to The New York Times.
The text, which Gardner relayed to Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, reads simply, “I’m running.”
Romney remains publicly undecided, however, he fueled speculation by changing his Twitter location to Utah in the immediate aftermath of Hatch’s retirement.
His nascent candidacy has enjoyed a string of good luck in recent days. Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon was removed from Breitbart News after a public spat with President Donald Trump. Also, two high-profile challengers — Boyd Matheson, GOP Utah Sen. Mike Lee’s former chief of staff, and GOP Utah Rep. Mia Love — withdrew amid rumors of Romney’s run.
Romney, an outspoken critic of Trump, enjoys widespread name recognition and support among Utah’s Mormon community.
“I think if he wants to be a check, it won’t hurt him here like it has others,” Lt. Gov. Spencer J. Cox, a Republican, told TheNYT, comparing Romney to outgoing GOP Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Bob Corker of Tennessee. “He could do it from Day 1 and he’d be fine.”
Romney and Trump have reportedly mended their relationship to some degree, though the lingering bad blood may have played a role in Trump’s urging Hatch to remain in office.
“You are a true fighter, Orrin. And I have to say, I’ve gotten to know him very well,” Trump said in a December speech in Utah. “I’ve gotten to know a lot of people very well. You meet fighters and you meet people that you thought were fighters but they’re not so good at fighting. He’s a fighter.”
“We hope you will continue to serve your state and your country in the Senate for a very long time to come,” the president added.
Romney had referred to Trump as a “phony,” and a “fraud” during a March 2016 speech.
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