The Republican leaders and their high-powered donors in Utah are joining efforts to convince the 83-year-old incumbent Senator, Orrin Hatch, not to seek reelection next year. And they seem to have found the anointed successor: Mitt Romney, the one-time presidential nominee and leading Trump critic. He is said to be exploring a run for Hatch’s Senate seat.
According to six sources, Romney has spent time in the recent weeks discussing a potential 2018 Senate bid in both Utah and Washington. He has stated that he would not pursue the seat without Hatch’s blessing. Hatch has served the U.S. Senate for more than four decades, but gave a signal that he might be willing to step aside in an interview last week with “National Journal’s” Alex Rogers. “If I could get a really outstanding person to run for my position, I might very well consider [retiring],” Hatch said, adding, “Mitt Romney would be perfect.”
After the press in Utah began moving with the speed of the “pony express,” Hatch’s team tried to tone down speculation, “While it’s no secret that I hold Mitt Romney in extraordinarily high esteem, my musing aloud on the subject has apparently snowballed into a frenzy of premature speculation. The overhyped intrigue doesn’t reflect the reality of the situation, especially this soon after the last election.”
Romney, who owns a house outside of Salt Lake City, is certainly taking the bid for a Senate seat seriously. He has not only talked to Hatch, but also Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Apparently, McConnell encouraged Romney to run if Hatch opens up the seat. He may have even assured Romney that he would have more influence in the chamber than a typical junior senator.
If Romney eventually decides to run, all believe it would be an easy victory. Romney was the first Mormon to secure a major party presidential nomination and is widely admired in Utah. “It would be the easiest Senate bid in the history of the United States of America,” Hal Boyd, the Deseret News’ opinion editor said. Derek Miller, the CEO of Utah’s World Trade Center, who is exploring the idea of his own run for the Senate said that he would gladly abandon his campaign if Romney entered the race, “I hold Mitt Romney in the highest regard. If he decided to run, I’d be out there doing a honk-and-wave for him.”
Why would 70-year-old Romney consider such a run? The most obvious answer is Donald Trump’s presidency. He has been and continues to be one of the most persistent critics of Trump (even though he seemed willing to serve as the administration’s Secretary of State). “It would be an opportunity for Mitt to represent the Utah style of Republicanism … and present a strong challenge to the president,” said one senior Republican.
Another reason for a Romney run is his Mormon faith. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, headquartered in Utah, has continually relied on Hatch to serve as a representative and ambassador in D.C. Romney views this role as significant. Several of Romney’s supporters have even made reference to the “White Horse Prophecy.” This is a well-known doctrine within Mormonism that predicts the U.S. Constitution will one day “hang by a thread” and Mormons will have to save it. “If [Romney] does this … he gets to ride around on a white horse for a while,” a Utah Republican said. “Maybe it really is hanging by a thread. We thought Obama was the threat all this time—maybe it turns out it’s Trump.”
A source close to Romney said that he thinks Mitt is bored and doesn’t have anything, other than family, to be passionate about.
What do you think about a Romney run for Senate?