Washington • Mitt Romney has always been an adopted Utahn.
Although a graduate of Brigham Young University, a Mormon and, to some, the revered savior of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Romney wasn’t born in the state and spent most of his life living elsewhere. But he now resides in Holladay where he built his dream house.
And he could be Utah’s next senator.
The former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential nominee said Thursday that he’ll announce on Feb. 15 whether he’ll run for the Senate seat that Sen. Orrin Hatch is vacating.
All indications are that he’s in.
“Looking forward to making an announcement on February 15th about the Utah Senate race,” Romney tweeted Thursday afternoon.
If Romney weren’t going to run, he’s not likely to tout an announcement two weeks ahead. And rarely do potential candidates hint at a candidacy if the end result is to say ‘no thanks.’ Friends and supporters of Romney say they want to let him make the formal declaration.
But it isn’t rocket science to see the plan.
“I think he’s in,” says Jason Perry, the executive director of the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics. “The way this tweet was put out and the message that was delivered seems to indicate that he has a big announcement. You don’t usually send out a tweet to say ‘I’m not interested.’”
Romney is a shoo-in for the seat, should he seek it, a Salt Lake Tribune-Hinckley Institute poll showed recently, with him winning a large share of the vote over Democratic challenger Jenny Wilson, a Salt Lake County councilwoman.
But not everyone’s thrilled about the prospect of a Sen. Romney.
Utah State Auditor John Dougall, a conservative Republican, lamented on Facebook that Romney is virtually guaranteed the seat not because of merit or hard work “but because the press and the UT Republican Party will help ensure his coronation.”
Hatch, who has served since 1977 in the Senate, said in January that he wouldn’t seek another term, opening the door for Romney, who has made his home in Utah since 2013.
Romney’s spokeswoman didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The former presidential candidate, who has been a sharp critic of President Donald Trump, hasn’t said whether he’ll run for the Senate but his recent speeches, touching on the reasons Utah could teach the nation some lessons, have previewed as much.
“It’s something that he has not denied,” says Perry. “People have speculated. He has the opportunity to say he’s not interested or he’s not going to do that – he’s never said that. The fact that he is staking a claim on a specific day at a specific time, means that’s he’s thought this through and he’s ready.”