Rom­ney is ex­pected to launch Utah Se­nate cam­paign to­day

For­mer pres­i­den­tial can­di­date seeks Or­rin Hatch’s seat.

Dayton Daily News - - NATION - By Michelle L. Price and Steve Peo­ples

For­mer SALT LAKE CITY —

GOP pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Mitt Rom­ney will an­nounce Thurs­day that he’s run­ning for the Utah Se­nate seat held by re­tir­ing Or­rin Hatch, three peo­ple with di­rect knowl­edge of the plan con­firmed Wed­nes­day.

He’ll be a heavy fa­vorite to keep the seat in Repub­li­can hands.

The 70-year-old Rom­ney, once a harsh critic of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, will re­lease an on­line video Thurs­day an­nounc­ing his Se­nate bid. His first pub­lic ap­pear­ance as a Se­nate can­di­date will come Fri­day night at a county Repub­li­can din­ner in Provo.

Those with knowl­edge of his plans spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause they weren’t au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly.

De­spite a drama-filled his­tory with Trump, Rom­ney is not ex­pected to ad­dress the com­bat­ive pres­i­dent di­rectly in the an­nounce­ment video. Those close to him say he plans a hy­per-lo­cal fo­cus on Utah is­sues through­out the Se­nate cam­paign.

His an­nounce­ment video will sug­gest that Washington has much to learn from Utah.

Rom­ney, a for­mer Mas­sachusetts gov­er­nor and one of the most fa­mous Mor­mons, is widely liked and re­spected in Utah, which is heav­ily Mor­mon.

He moved to Utah af­ter los­ing the 2012 pres­i­den­tial election. That was a decade af­ter he helped turn around the scan­dal-plagued 2002 Win­ter Olympics.

In ad­di­tion to his in­stant name recog­ni­tion, Rom­ney has a deep net­work of fundrais­ers and his own per­sonal wealth to help carry him. Those close to him sug­gest he will not seek fi­nan­cial aid from any su­per PACs or Washington-based cam­paign com­mit­tees.

If he be­comes Utah’s next sen­a­tor, some sup­port­ers hope that the one-time Trump critic could serve as a po­lit­i­cal and moral coun­ter­weight to a pres­i­dent they see as di­vi­sive, er­ratic and undig­ni­fied.

Dur­ing the 2016 pres­i­den­tial election, Rom­ney gave a scathing speech in which he called Trump “a phony” who was “play­ing the Amer­i­can pub­lic for suck­ers” and was un­fit to be pres­i­dent.

He soft­ened his stance af­ter Trump won the pres­i­dency and put him­self for­ward as a can­di­date for sec­re­tary of state. But he re­sumed his crit­i­cism last year, call­ing out the pres­i­dent for blam­ing “both sides” fol­low­ing a deadly white su­prem­a­cist rally in Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia.

Trump, in turn, has crit­i­cized Rom­ney for his failed pres­i­den­tial bids in 2008 and 2012, say­ing he “choked like a dog.”

Any ef­forts by Trump to block Rom­ney are un­likely to res­onate in Utah, where the pres­i­dent re­ceived a luke­warm re­cep­tion from Mor­mons who were re­pelled by his brash de­meanor and com­ments about women and mi­nori­ties.

Rom­ney isn’t ex­pected to face any se­ri­ous chal­lenges for the seat. Even Utah’s con­ser­va­tives, who see him as too mod­er­ate and es­tab­lish­ment for their lik­ing, ad­mit they re­spect him and are un­likely to block him.

How­ever, some in the state see Rom­ney as an out­sider who is sim­ply bank­ing on his fame. The Utah Repub­li­can Party chair­man took the un­usual step Wed­nes­day of crit­i­ciz­ing the man who is ex­pected to be his party’s Se­nate nom­i­nee.

Rob An­der­son told The Salt Lake Tri­bune that Rom­ney is “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.”

An­der­son did not re­turn mes­sages from the AP seek­ing com­ment.

Rom­ney was treated last year for prostate can­cer, which an aide said was re­moved sur­gi­cally and found not to have spread.

Hatch plans to re­tire af­ter 2018, fol­low­ing more than four decades in the Se­nate. One of the long­est-serv­ing sen­a­tors in U.S. his­tory, Hatch be­gan float­ing Rom­ney’s name last year as his po­ten­tial suc­ces­sor.

When Hatch won re-election in 2012, he pledged that his sev­enth term would be his last. He flirted with break­ing that prom­ise, sug­gest­ing he might run again in 2018 with the en­cour­age­ment of Trump, who has sought to block Rom­ney.

In the end, Hatch de­cided to stick with his prom­ise, say­ing, “Ev­ery good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves.”

RICK BOWMER / AP

Mitt Rom­ney is ex­pected to launch his Se­nate cam­paign in a video to­day. His first pub­lic ap­pear­ance as a can­di­date is sched­uled for Fri­day at a county Repub­li­can din­ner in Provo, Utah.

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