Washington • Mitt Romney would handily beat Democrat Jenny Wilson if the two competed for the Senate seat from Utah next year, though Wilson would beat Sen. Orrin Hatch if he runs again, a new poll shows.
The poll, commissioned by UtahPolicy.com, finds Romney snatching 64 percent of the vote to Wilson’s 26 percent with 10 percent undecided.
Romney, a former Massachusetts governor and 2012 GOP presidential nominee, has not said whether he would seek Hatch’s seat if the seven-term senator decides to retire, though a close friend said he is seriously considering it.
The Dan Jones & Associates poll shows Romney would easily win in a state where he is a well-known figure for taking over the scandal-plagued 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Should Hatch run for another term — he says he’ll make a final decision this fall — he would lose to Wilson, 45 percent to 34 percent, the poll shows. The poll did not identify the candidates’ party affiliations.
The poll also found that Rep. Chris Stewart, who is weighing a bid if Hatch doesn’t run, would eke out a win against Wilson in a head-to-head contest, though 36 percent of voters are undecided in that matchhup.
Wilson would beat Utah Valley University President Matt Holland if the two were to vie for the seat but nearly half of voters were unsure who they would pick.
Hatch’s office dismissed the poll as old news, noting the senator has yet to say whether he will seek another term.
“As much as we love to support our local media outlets, this is the third or fourth time we have seen this same report without any new sources or any new information,” said Hatch spokesman Matt Whitlock. “Nothing has changed. Senator Hatch is focused on the critical work of the Senate, and he plans to make a final decision by the end of the year.”
Wilson heralded the Utah Policy poll and said it tracks what her campaign is finding.
“This is a confirmation of what I’m hearing on the ground from people,” Wilson said Monday. “They’re tired of Washington; people are tired of the arguing and the lack of progress on things that matter to them.”
Mitchell Vice, a Democrat, has also signaled his intent to run for the Senate seat.
Hatch had said during his 2012 re-election campaign that he wouldn’t seek another term but has backtracked since noting encouragement from President Donald Trump, fellow senators and Utah business leaders.
Kem Gardner, a prominent Salt Lake developer and friend of Romney’s, said he believes Romney would be very interested in running for Senate, but the ball is really in Hatch’s court.
“I think the situation is that nobody wants to crowd Orrin. He’s been a great senator and he needs to finish out his term and not feel that anybody is crowding him,” Gardner said. “I think Mitt is really sensitive to that, so he hasn’t announced.”
“Nothing is really going to happen until Orrin decides whether he wants to run again. I think Mitt is going to be really quiet about his plans,” he said.
Gardner is also talking to the senator about setting up the Orrin Hatch Center for Political Leadership, a repository for Hatch’s official papers that Gardner hopes becomes affiliated with the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute. But that would not be until Hatch decides to leave the Senate, whether that’s after his current term or later on.
Romney has been getting pressure from people to consider running once Hatch leaves.
“I think that’s something Mitt would consider highly. I think he could really represent Utah well and provide leadership in the Senate,” Gardner said. Because Romney is a known commodity in Utah, he wouldn’t need the time to ramp up a campaign apparatus, so there’s not the same urgency others might feel for Hatch to make a decision.
The Utah Policy poll, conducted by Dan Jones & Associates, surveyed 608 registered voters Aug. 30-Sept. 5 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.97 percent.