Trump critic Mitt Romney announces run for Utah Senate seat

The Republican is expected to easily win the race 

Alexandra Wilts
Washington DC
Friday 16 February 2018 14:51 GMT
Mitt Romney announces he is running for Senate

Mitt Romney, a prominent Republican critic of President Donald Trump, has announced he is running for Utah’s US Senate seat, setting out on what is expected to be a smooth journey to Washington where he could play a key role in driving the direction of the divided Republican Party.

Immensely popular among Utah’s Mormon base, the 70-year-old former presidential candidate is expected to easily win the race to replace retiring Republican Senator Orrin Hatch.

“Given all that America faces, we feel that this is the right time for me to serve our state and our country,” Mr Romney said in a video posted on Twitter. ”I have decided to run for United States Senate because I believe I can help bring Utah’s values and Utah’s lessons to Washington.”

The announcement comes as Democrats are seeking to take control of the Senate and House of Representatives in November. While expectations were once low that they could recapture majorities in both chambers of Congress in 2018, Mr Trump’s low approval rating, Republican infighting and some significant Democratic election wins could mean that Democrats will have the power in Congress by next year.

Republicans are continuously facing a conundrum over whether they should stand up to the President, who has often attacked members of his own party and makes frequent controversial comments about minorities, other countries and the media.

But Mr Romney has shown he has no qualms about bashing the President.

The former Massachusetts governor has spoken out against Mr Trump multiple times, criticising him during the 2016 election and for his hesitation to condemn white supremacists last year. He has also rebuked Mr Trump’s crude comments regarding women and the character of Mexican immigrants.

In March 2016, Mr Romney labelled Mr Trump as a “phony” and “a fraud” and said he couldn’t vote for him. Mr Trump responded by asserting that Mr Romney "would have dropped to his knees" for his endorsement in 2012, when the former governor became the first-ever Mormon to secure a major-party presidential nomination.

After losing to President Barack Obama, Mr Romney had originally retreated from the national spotlight. However, the antics of Mr Trump appear to have encouraged him to return to the scene.

Despite their clashes, the President reportedly considered Mr Romney for Secretary of State – but this rumour is now said to have been a ploy to generate publicity.

In his announcement on Friday, Mr Romney avoided mentioning Mr Trump by name. But he did take a veiled swipe at the President, saying Utah “welcomes legal immigrants from around the world -- Washington sends immigrants a message of exclusion. And on Utah’s Capitol Hill, people treat one another with respect.”

There has been long been speculation over whether Mr Romney would run for US Senate. Mr Hatch, the longest-serving Republican senator in US history, said in January that he would retire in 2018, opening up the Utah seat.

While Mr Romney is seen as an early favourite to win, not every Utah Republican is happy that he has thrown his hat into the race.

"I think he's keeping out candidates that I think would be a better fit for Utah," Rob Anderson, the State Republican Party chairman, told the Tribune. "Let's face it, Mitt Romney doesn't live here, his kids weren't born here, he doesn't shop here."

From 2003 to 2007, Mr Romney served as governor of Massachusetts, where he was a registered voter and ran his private investment firm, Bain Capital. He has also spent a lot of time at his beachside home in San Diego.

The same day that Mr Hatch officially announced his retirement, the location associated with Mr Romney's Twitter account was changed from Massachusetts to Utah, where he owns a home and has close ties to the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, according to the Huffington Post.

This wouldn't be the politician's first Senate bid. He ran for the Senate in Massachusetts in 1994, losing to Democrat Ted Kennedy.

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