On February 16, 2018, Mitt Romney announced that he is running for the Utah Senate seat being vacated by Orrin Hatch who is retiring at the end of his term. Romney posted a video announcing his campaign for the seat saying, “I am running for United States Senate to serve the people of Utah and bring Utah’s values to Washington.”
While many have viewed Romneys running a foregone conclusion, with polls showing him far and away the favored candidate, some have expressed concerns regarding the perceived inevitability of Romney winning the seat. Some criticism has even come from the Utah Republican Party Chairman, Rob Anderson. In an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune Anderson stated, “I think he’s keeping out candidates that I think would be a better fit for Utah because, let’s face it, Mitt Romney doesn’t live here, his kids weren’t born here, he doesn’t shop here.” In addition to that, Anderson noted Romney’s history of criticizing President Trump.
These comments reflect the fact that Romney has a long history in the national political spotlight. His political career includes a run for the Massachusetts Senate seat that was held by Ted Kennedy, a stint as governor of that state, and two failed bids for the presidency, one of which he clinched the Republican nomination and lost to President Obama. Some have even drawn parallels between Romney and Hillary Clinton, noting similarities in their political ascendancy. Both ran for Senate seats in states where they hadn’t historically lived.
Quickly after the statements came to light, Anderson released a statement apologizing for the tone of his comments saying, “Pursuant to an article today in the Salt Lake Tribune, I regret that my comments about potential Senatorial candidate, Mitt Romney, came across as disparaging or unsupportive.” He may have faced some backlash from Romney supporters in the state. Some polls show him having a nearly 70 percent approval rating.
Chairman Anderson is not the only one criticizing Romney’s decision to run. State Auditor John Dougall said, “We need to talk about what we want out U.S. senator to be rather than talk about who it should be. As an auditor, I know that single-source bidding is no way to do business.” Dougall too notes the tense relationship between Trump and Romney and has suggested that Utah requires representatives that will work with Trump to fulfill his agenda.