Utah is still waiting for Mitt Romney to announce his campaign for Orrin Hatch’s soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat, but it’s no surprise that the former GOP presidential nominee is taking his time. He realizes that the minute he announces his intentions, the seat is his. Recent polls show him between forty and fifty points ahead of his Democratic challenger, and no Republican in the Beehive State is willing to commit political suicide and announce a campaign against Utah’s favorite son.
Which is ironic, of course, because Utah’s favorite son grew up in Michigan and raised his family in Massachusetts, which is where he served as governor. His time in Utah prior to his last presidential campaign was limited to his tenure as the leader of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, but his appeal to Utah voters has little to do with his geography and is largely predicated on his status as the Mormon who got closer to the presidency than any other member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ever has and, for the foreseeable future, ever will.
If Utahns can’t get a Mormon president, the least they can do is hand him a Senate seat
Mitt was the catalyst for the so-called “Mormon Moment” that led to copious press coverage and a satirical Broadway musical. And during Trump’s ascendancy, Mitt was a prominent critic within his own party, even going so far as to give a blistering speech excoriating Trump for his dishonesty, misogyny, and numerous other failings. It was clear that Mitt was trying to position himself as the loyal GOP opposition to Trump – a sort of Anti-Trump around whom other disgusted Republicans could rally.
And, of course, it didn’t work. Trump won, in spite of, or perhaps partly because of, his open contempt for Romney, who he labeled a “choke artist.” Trump even floated the idea of appointing Romney as Secretary of State, which led to a series of humiliating photos of a groveling Mitt eating dinner with the man he had so forcefully condemned just months earlier. But it was clear to everyone, if not to Mitt, that Trump was toying with him, and that Mitt was the party’s past and that Trump was, for better or worse, the party’s future.
Mitt Romney can never run for President again
With that background, it’s obvious why Mitt would want to redeem himself by becoming the Trump-slayer who returned the GOP to the moral high ground. So its no surprise that there are new “Mitt for President 2020” rumblings making their way through Utah and beyond.
Well, no, not beyond – pretty much just Utah. (Okay, maybe Idaho, too, but that’s about it.) The fact is that voters have had multiple chances to put Romney in the White House, and they very deliberately haven’t done it. If Romney were to run for president as a Republican, he’d have to wrest the nomination from Trump, and the last time a sitting president was denied his party’s nomination was Chester A. Arthur in 1884. It’s not likely to happen again.
A third party bid is a possibility, but, beyond the Mormon faithful, it’s difficult to determine who Romney’s constituency would be. There aren’t enough anti-Trump Republicans to propel a third party victory, and Democrats are unlikely to turn to Romney as their political savior. True, Mitt wants to be president, and Mormons want Mitt to be president. But the hard reality is that Mitt Romney is not going to be president.
(Photo of former Governor Mitt Romney speaking with supporters at a campaign rally for U.S. Senator John McCain at Dobson High School in Mesa, Arizona by Gage Skidmore)