There are many reasons Mitt Romney might run for the Senate — and many why he might not

Being in the arena during a time of political turmoil might be the biggest draw. But Romney would be a junior senator among 100.<br>

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gestures during a campaign stop at USAA insurance company, Wednesday, June 6, 2012, in San Antonio, Texas. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Washington • Mitt Romney doesn’t want the first line of his obituary to read that he was a failed presidential candidate. And he doesn’t want to simply fade away.

There are many reasons Romney may launch a 2018 bid for the Senate — and a few why he might not.

But one of the driving motivations for the 2012 Republican presidential nominee and now-Utah resident to pursue a Senate seat is a sense that he still has a part to play, and, at a critical time in American politics, he doesn’t want to sit on the sideline.

He yearns to serve.

At his core, that’s who he is,” says Amy Walter, national editor of the Cook Political Report, which analyzes congressional races. “He wants to be a public servant. He enjoys politics — not from the way that political junkies enjoy politics, the watching each and every political move from a strategic perspective — he’s a guy who enjoys being involved in politics because of his impact in politics.”

People close to Romney say he hasn’t decided whether he will run for the seat now that Sen. Orrin Hatch says he’ll retire when his term ends early next year. But they expect that Romney will make a decision soon, and supporters are laying the groundwork should he jump in. And, so far, it appears that other potential Republican candidates, such as U.S. Reps. Chris Stewart and Mia Love, appear to be waiting to see what Romney does before making their own decision.

The former Massachusetts governor has made his home in Holladay for more than four years and has been a regular, albeit inconsistent, presence in state and federal politics. Most famously, he’s been an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, at one point denouncing him as “a phony, a fraud” during a speech at the University of Utah. At another, he said Trump’s actions would lead to “trickle-down racism.”

But Trump and Romney have talked at least twice in the past month, with Trump encouraging Romney to run in their latest call, according to a source close to the White House. Some key Utah politicians have also urged Romney to step forward, including Hatch.

Beyond the decision of whether he’ll launch a bid, the next big question is whether Romney would campaign and serve as an anti-Trump voice or whether he would try to find some middle ground with this president.

I don’t see him coming here as a way to be a thorn in the side of Donald Trump,” Walter says. “He sees it as a role to be taken seriously. He takes very seriously the separate branches of government role. His job isn’t to be a rubber stamp, but not be a gadfly either.”

If Romney mounts a campaign, he’s likely to dominate the race, given his popularity in Utah, where he earned 72 percent of the vote in his 2012 presidential campaign against then-President Barack Obama.

Romney would be a junior senator without the seniority to land key committee assignments, but as a nationally known leader he would instantly earn the spotlight and a megaphone. He also would be less reliant on the party apparatus or the goodwill of the president than many lesser-known senators. In a body where Republicans hold a narrow 51-49 advantage, Romney could be influential if he plays the role of his party’s moderate standard-bearer.

A good way to make a clear contrast to Trump and demonstrate leadership is to be a strong and principled conservative voice of reason,” says Doug Heye, a CNN contributor and former spokesman for the Republican National Committee. “That’s especially true today in light of Trump’s latest tweets and his fight with [former White House chief strategist Steve] Bannon. There are a lot of loud, angry voices out there at a time when we need more calm voices.”

Then again, Romney may not want to deal with all of that.

He has always been the boss — he was a business executive, head of the 2002 Winter Olympics, a governor and presidential candidate — whereas in the Senate he’d be one among 100.

He did run for the Senate in 1994, losing to Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts, but taking on a Senate schedule would be taxing. He’d likely be flying between Utah and Washington every week and dealing with a gaggle of reporters stalking him through the halls of Congress asking him to respond to the latest presidential tweet. He won’t get to set the agenda, rather he’d be more often reacting to the proposals and ideas of others.

He now has the freedom to decide his schedule and pick the issues he weighs in on and the venues where he speaks, which have increasingly been well-thought-out Facebook posts.

Still, Romney may relish the chance to be in the arena in this political climate.

As someone who has already run for president and served as a governor, one could definitely see Romney calling balls and strikes on policy and political issues coming out of the White House,” says Ron Bonjean, a Republican political consultant.

Boyd Matheson, the president of the Utah-based Sutherland Institute who had considered but later declined to run for the Senate, told U.S. News & World Report that he spoke to Romney about a possible bid in September. Matheson says he doesn’t expect Romney, if he runs, to just be a Trump critic and that he’d make deals with the president if elected.

Matheson added that Romney would be a major player. If paired with his former vice presidential running mate and now-House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the two would be a formidable duo.

“Imagine Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan having a bigger influence on one end of Pennsylvania Avenue than they would have on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. Imagine a Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan Congress,” Matheson told the newsmagazine. “That is a face of the Republican Party that’s very interesting.”

If there is to be a Sen. Romney, he may not arrive in Washington as the Never Trump guy, though he wouldn’t be beholden to the president, either.

He is someone who is not afraid to speak out when he needs to,” says Walter, the political handicapper. And since Romney already has a big national following and stature in his party, he would be a voice people listened to on Day One.

In some ways,” Walter says, “it gives you incredible freedom.”