President Donald Trump endorsed former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in the race for U.S. Senate in Utah, saying he’ll “make a great Senator and worthy successor” to retiring Senator Orrin Hatch.
Mr. Hatch, who is the longest-serving Republican senator in U.S. history, grew quite close to the President and has developed a strong personal relationship with him. But he has decided to end his 42-year long career.
“.@MittRomney has announced he is running for the Senate from the wonderful State of Utah,” he tweeted. “He will make a great Senator and worthy successor to @OrrinHatch, and has my full support and endorsement!”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 20, 2018
Mr. Romney, the failed 2012 Republican nominee for President of the United States, responded in kind.
“Thank you Mr. President for the support,” he tweeted. “I hope that over the course of the campaign I also earn the support and endorsement of the people of Utah.”
Thank you Mr. President for the support. I hope that over the course of the campaign I also earn the support and endorsement of the people of Utah.
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) February 20, 2018
This is the second time Mr. Trump has endorsed Mr. Romney, who during the 2016 Republican nomination said the president was a “fraud” and “a phony.” His endorsement was highly-sought by Mr. Romney and every single other GOP presidential hopeful for at least the last two cycles.
“Here’s what I know. Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University,” Mr. Romney said during remarks at the University of Utah in March, 2016. “He’s playing the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat.”
Worth noting, he also said that if “Donald Trump’s plans were ever implemented, the country would sink into a prolonged recession.” That of course is the exact opposite of what has happened.
Nevertheless, a Salt Lake Tribune poll conducted in January found him walking away with 64% of those surveyed for the general election compared to 19% who chose Democrat Jenny Wilson. While the former governor of liberal Massachusetts is the clear favorite for the nomination and the general election, Trump supporters won’t soon forget those remarks.
Further, not everyone in Utah Republican circles is thrilled about his frontrunner status.
His campaign announcement came just one day after Utah Republican Party Chairman Rob Anderson blasted Mr. Romney for his expected run in the Beehive State, telling The Salt Lake Tribune he’s “essentially doing what Hillary Clinton did in New York.”
“I think he’s keeping out candidates that I think would be a better fit for Utah because, let’s face it, Mitt Romney doesn’t live here, his kids weren’t born here, he doesn’t shop here,” Rob Anderson told The Salt Lake Tribune in an interview. “I have two questions for Mitt. First of all, why? And how do you expect to represent Utah when you don’t live here?”
That’s a reference to carpetbagging. A carpetbagger is a political candidate who seeks election in an area where they have no local connections. The name arose in the 1800s to define a person from the northern states who went to the South after the Civil War to profit from the Reconstruction.
Mr. Romney ran for the U.S. Senate previously in liberal Massachusetts in 1994, losing to Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy 58.1% to 41.0%. He was subsequently elected as the state’s governor in 2002 against a deeply-flawed Democratic candidate Shannon O’Brien by a 49.77% to 44.94% margin.