Washington • If Mitt Romney wants a U.S. Senate seat, a new poll shows he’d be a shoo-in, grabbing 64 percent of the vote in Utah compared with 19 percent for Democrat Jenny Wilson.
A poll by The Salt Lake Tribune and the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics found that should Romney run, the Republican and former Massachusetts governor who now lives in Utah would handily win the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Orrin Hatch. Friends say he’s seriously considering a bid.
Some 85 percent of Republicans back Romney for the seat, as do 55 percent of voters who say they’re unaffiliated. Even 18 percent of Democrats say they’d support Romney.
“If Mitt Romney decides to enter this race, he’s going to be the next senator from Utah,” said Jason Perry, executive director of the Hinckley Institute. “Gold is the right label to give to the Romney name in Utah.”
Wilson, a Salt Lake County Council member, nabs 68 percent of Democrats but just 23 percent of unaffiliated voters and 2 percent of Republicans, the poll shows. Some 12 percent of voters overall are unsure if they’d pick Romney or Wilson.
Neither Wilson nor her campaign returned calls seeking comment. A Romney aide didn’t respond.
Longtime Utah pollster Dan Jones, who conducted the Tribune-Hinckley Institute survey, said Utahns are eager for Romney to decide whether he’s in, and if he is, he’ll be a solid candidate.
“He will be a tough campaigner, but a lot can happen at the convention, and he also has to get signatures,” Jones said. “He rides very, very high.”
Under current Utah law, candidates for public office in the state can go through their party’s convention process and win enough delegate support to get on the ballot or collect signatures, or both. A U.S. Senate candidate needs 28,000 signatures to qualify for the primary.
Jones said Wilson, too, will “work hard as a campaigner,” and she also may get a boost from family name recognition. Her father, Ted Wilson, is a former Salt Lake City mayor who also ran for the Senate and for governor.
The statewide poll, conducted Jan. 15-18 among 803 registered voters, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.