Romney, Thorn in Trump’s Side, Wins GOP Senate Nod in Utah

Some Republicans already envision him creating a new ‘power center’ in chamber

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, shown here in 2012, is poised for a political comeback after winning the GOP primary for Senate in Utah. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is poised for a political comeback, winning Tuesday’s GOP Senate primary in Utah.

With 56 percent of precincts reporting, Romney led state Rep. Mike Kennedy, 76 percent to 24 percent, when The Associated Press called the race. Kennedy had narrowly defeated Romney at the GOP convention in April.

Longtime GOP Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, who is retiring, recruited the former Massachusetts governor to run for the seat. (Romney moved to Utah after losing the 2012 presidential race.) The pair discussed his bid last March, The Boston Globe reported. Hatch, who is the most senior GOP senator, said he did not want “some dud” to replace him.

Romney will be heavily favored in November against Salt Lake County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson, who secured the Democratic nomination at her party’s convention in April. Her father, Ted Wilson, a former Salt Lake City mayor, sought the same Senate seat in 1982, losing to Hatch. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the general election Solid Republican.

Participating in the legislative branch would be a new experience for Romney. But some senators expect him to enter the chamber — where one senator has the ability to slow legislation — with considerable sway. Retiring Arizona GOP Sen. Jeff Flake said he expected Romney to create a “new power center” among Republicans.

A Sen. Romney could also be a thorn in President Donald Trump’s side — but not on every issue. The former presidential contender wrote in a Salt Lake Tribune op-ed this week that he would support the president when it benefits Utah, and oppose him when necessary.

“I have and will continue to speak out when the president says or does something which is divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest or destructive to democratic institutions,” Romney wrote. “I do not make this a daily commentary; I express contrary views only when I believe it is a matter of substantial significance.”

Hatch: Time to ‘Hang Up the Gloves’

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