It's happening (maybe): Romney reportedly set to run for Senate in Utah -- if Orrin Hatch retires

Alternate headline: “Orrin Hatch must retire.” And there’s a fair chance that he will! He’s 83 and said in March that he’d be more inclined to step down if he could get a “really outstanding person” to run for his seat. When asked if he had anyone in mind, he said “Mitt Romney would be perfect.” That lit the fuse on RomneyWatch 2018, leading to reports that Romney was thinking about it and had even spoken to Mitch McConnell about running. But then in May the speculation seemed to fizzle: Hatch himself claimed that Romney told him he wouldn’t run after all. The rumors had just been rumors.

Or had they?

Sources close to Romney say the two-time presidential candidate will jump into the 2018 Utah Senate scrum if Hatch opts not to…

Dave Hansen, a longtime political advisor to Hatch, told last month that he didn’t expect Hatch to decide on his political future until October. However, sources now tell 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…

A poll shows Romney would be in great shape to win a Senate race against Democrat Jenny Wilson. Romney pulls 64% of the vote to Wilson’s 26%.

Romney’s in a delicate spot since he wants to signal interest in Hatch’s seat but doesn’t want to seem so aggressive about it that Hatch would feel like he’s being muscled into retirement and take offense. Romney respectfully telling Hatch a few months ago that he’s not interested in the seat in order to lift some pressure on him to step down would be a very Romney thing to do. But if the report above is true that Hatch is delaying his retirement decision, possibly because he’s thinking of running for another term after all, Mitt might have concluded that a little pressure is now in order. If he wants to run, this may be an opportune moment to let Utah’s GOP establishment know so that they can start politely counseling Hatch that it’s time to go. Nudge him to quit before he commits to another campaign. The polls in Utah have been ruthless in pointing him towards the exit, too. Last month a Salt Lake Tribune survey found 78 percent(!) of Utah voters wanted him to retire.

In any other state, I wonder if a GOP primary for Hatch’s seat might invite Steve Bannon and his populist allies to try to block Romney by backing a red-meat anti-establishmentarian against him, as they reportedly plan to do elsewhere. In Utah, that would be a sucker’s game. Romney will win the seat easily. The only mystery en route to victory is how candidate Romney would handle questions about Trump, which would be asked of him hourly for months. Everyone knows the backstory there: Romney accepted Trump’s endorsement in 2012, turned on him viciously during the primaries last year, then made a cold peace with the president-elect after the election as they discussed the State job. Romney’s been mostly quiet these past eight months but he piped up to demand an apology from Trump after the president’s Charlottesville remarks. In hindsight, maybe that was a sign that Romney was serious about Hatch’s seat. He’s already separating himself from Trump for a state that’s never been wild about POTUS:

The potential consequences are severe in the extreme. Accordingly, the president must take remedial action in the extreme. He should address the American people, acknowledge that he was wrong, apologize. State forcefully and unequivocally that racists are 100% to blame for the murder and violence in Charlottesville. Testify that there is no conceivable comparison or moral equivalency between the Nazis–who brutally murdered millions of Jews and who hundreds of thousands of Americans gave their lives to defeat–and the counter-protestors who were outraged to see fools parading the Nazi flag, Nazi armband and Nazi salute. And once and for all, he must definitively repudiate the support of David Duke and his ilk and call for every American to banish racists and haters from any and every association.

This is a defining moment for President Trump. But much more than that, it is a moment that will define America in the hearts of our children. They are watching, our soldiers are watching, the world is watching. Mr. President, act now for the good of the country.

Any other Senate candidate in a red state would need to tread carefully in criticizing Trump during a campaign. I’m not so sure Romney would given his immense advantages in Utah. Alienating some Trump voters would shrink his margin of victory but it would also establish his image before joining the Senate as an outspoken independent-minded Republican who doesn’t plan to carry Trump’s legislative water for pure partisan reasons. He and Mike Lee would be birds of a feather in that respect, although Romney’s never been as much of a full-spectrum conservative as Lee is.

Anyway. The Romney/Kid Rock Tax Reform Act of 2019 will be a landmark achievement for America, my friends. They’ll be a dynamite combo in the Senate. They’re old friends!

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Jazz Shaw 7:31 PM on October 02, 2022