In the 2016 Republican primary election, the state of Utah did an interesting thing: It overwhelmingly turned out against Trump, leaving him with a measly 14 percent of the vote. Ted Cruz came out on top, netting 69 percent of the vote. Even John Kasich came out on top of Trump, getting nearly 17 percent.
Those results have become part of a more obvious pattern: Mormons don’t seem to like Trump all that much. In fact, the Deseret News, which is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and is the oldest publication in Utah, slammed Trump in a 2016 editorial after the Access Hollywood tapes were released, demanding that he withdraw his candidacy for president.
Granted, Mormons –and Utah – liked Hillary even less. But what if they had the choice between Donald Trump and another Republican? Would they vote for a Republican on an anti-Trump agenda?
Enter Mitt Romney, who seems to think so – and also seems to be considering a run for one of Utah’s seats in the U.S. Senate. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has previously indicated he would give up his seat for Romney. Orrin Hatch is the longest-serving Republican in Senate history, having been in office nearly 40 years, and rumors have swirled about his possible retirement.
‘[Mitt Romney] is huddling with Utah’s class of GOP power brokers, contacting the state’s major political donors, and hitting the trail for candidates running in local races amid mounting speculation that the state’s longtime senator, Orrin Hatch, will retire. Romney is also raising money for House and Senate Republicans, winning him favor with GOP leaders ahead of a treacherous midterm election.
‘Last week, Romney attended a high-profile gala in Salt Lake City hosted by the Sutherland Institute, a prominent conservative think tank. The event drew a number of notable Utah political figures, including Sen. Mike Lee and Utah Senate President Wayne Niederhauser. Romney shared a table with former Gov. Mike Leavitt, a longtime supporter he’s been in touch with amid his deliberations. He also had a private conversation with the night’s featured speaker, conservative commentator Bill Kristol.
‘Kristol declined to say what the two discussed. But, he said, “Assuming Sen. Hatch retires, I hope Mitt runs. He’d be a very good senator.”‘
Romney is no stranger to criticizing Trump. He’s called him a “phony” and a “fraud,” as well as slammed his business skill (nonexistent, according to Romney). You can watch those remarks below:
In August, after Trump’s divisive “many fine people on both sides” statement after a Neo-Nazi murdered a counter-protester in Charlottesville, Romney opened fire again, posting a long Facebook status which you can read below:
‘I will dispense for now from discussion of the moral character of the president’s Charlottesville statements. Whether he intended to or not, what he communicated caused racists to rejoice, minorities to weep, and the vast heart of America to mourn. His apologists strain to explain that he didn’t mean what we heard. But what we heard is now the reality, and unless it is addressed by the president as such, with unprecedented candor and strength, there may commence an unraveling of our national fabric.
‘The leaders of our branches of military service have spoken immediately and forcefully, repudiating the implications of the president’s words. Why? In part because the morale and commitment of our forces–made up and sustained by men and women of all races–could be in the balance. Our allies around the world are stunned and our enemies celebrate; America’s ability to help secure a peaceful and prosperous world is diminished. And who would want to come to the aid of a country they perceive as racist if ever the need were to arise, as it did after 9/11?
‘In homes across the nation, children are asking their parents what this means. Jews, blacks, Hispanics, Muslims are as much a part of America as whites and Protestants. But today they wonder. Where might this lead? To bitterness and tears, or perhaps to anger and violence?
‘The potential consequences are severe in the extreme. Accordingly, the president must take remedial action in the extreme. He should address the American people, acknowledge that he was wrong, apologize. State forcefully and unequivocally that racists are 100% to blame for the murder and violence in Charlottesville. Testify that there is no conceivable comparison or moral equivalency between the Nazis–who brutally murdered millions of Jews and who hundreds of thousands of Americans gave their lives to defeat–and the counter-protestors who were outraged to see fools parading the Nazi flag, Nazi armband and Nazi salute. And once and for all, he must definitively repudiate the support of David Duke and his ilk and call for every American to banish racists and haters from any and every association.
‘This is a defining moment for President Trump. But much more than that, it is a moment that will define America in the hearts of our children. They are watching, our soldiers are watching, the world is watching. Mr. President, act now for the good of the country.’
With all that in mind, it stands to reason that Romney would make his run. And he’s far from the only person who wants it. According to The Atlantic, at this point it’s almost being demanded that Romney – or someone else – run to replace Hatch:
‘Republicans in Utah have been quietly working behind the scenes all year to convince Hatch—who, at 83 years old, is the longest-serving Republican Senator in Washington—that it’s time to bring his career to an end. Polls show a large majority of Utahns want him to retire, and he appears extraordinarily vulnerable to a primary challenge. Some GOP leaders in Utah worry that he will lose to an unpredictable insurgent candidate with few ties to the party establishment.
‘The consensus among political insiders in the state is that Romney will win easily if he runs. And several potential candidates have already signaled that they will not compete for the seat, given Romney’s apparent interest.’
Romney’s religion and strong disapproval of Trump are reminiscent of another senator who made headlines recently for criticizing his party’s president and presumptive leader: Jeff Flake. Unlike Flake, who also announced he will not be running for reelection, Romney is expect to have strong support from his (assumed) constituency and a fresh term in front of him. You can watch Flake’s anti-Trump speech on the Senate floor below:
Featured image via Justin Sullivan/Getty Images