Mitt Romney is reportedly closing in on deciding whether to seek U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch’s seat if the senior Utah Republican decides to retire at the end of his term next year, according to reports saying the wheels are already in motion.
“It’s not a question of winning,” said Republican strategist Patrick Griffin of rumors the former Massachusetts governor was launching back into public life after bruising presidential defeats and a short-lived courtship to be President Trump’s secretary of state.
“He wins that race and I don’t think he breaks much of a sweat,” Griffin told the Herald.
Hatch, 83, is privately telling friends he might retire at the end of his term next year and Romney will run for his seat in 2018, according to multiple reports. The announcements have not been finalized and Hatch or Romney could still change their minds, The Atlantic magazine reported.
The Utah senator, currently the longest serving Republican senator in Washington, threw cold water on the speculation. His spokesman, Dave Hansen, told The Atlantic its anonymous sources are “no more informed on the Senator’s thinking” than they were when the magazine ran a similar story speculating Romney’s run in April.
Hansen said Hatch plans to make a decision on whether to run by the end of the year.
Though Romney, still popular in his native Utah, would be a shoo-in for Hatch’s seat, it’s unclear how he’d function in the Senate with Trump in the White House and the factions of the Republican Party feuding over its identity.
“For Mitt Romney, the question becomes if you go to the Senate to fight Trump you have a natural thing to do,” Griffin said. “These guys don’t naturally get along. If you’re going to Senate to try to help Trump and Trump has something to sell, this all comes down to what Mitt Romney wants to do in his life.”
Romney could face off in a primary against Republican think tank founder Boyd Matheson — a pick of Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, who is backing a field of primary candidates to reshape the party nationwide.
Griffin is skeptical of Bannon’s enterprise in Utah.
“Steve Bannon is making a lot of noise about doing all kinds of things,” Griffin said. “The question is can he do it? I don’t think he can. He’s got to field a lot of candidates and raise a lot of money.”
Former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party Fergus Cullen said Romney in public office is “good for the country, especially today.”
“I presume he knows what he’d be getting into,” Cullen said. “He wouldn’t be someone who arrives in the Senate and is immediately disillusioned.”
Cullen said a statesman like Romney could bring a “sober voice” to Washington and even help turn around the “corrosive” way we talk about politics, adding: “Romney is a living-breathing antidote to that stuff.”
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