In a video posted Friday morning on Twitter, Mitt Romney announced he's running for the Senate to represent Utah. The video first touts the traits Utahans are "known for," including their "hard work, innovation, and our 'can do' pioneering spirit." Romney then speaks directly to the camera from the Utah Olympic Oval, one venue of the 2002 Olympic Games hosted in Salt Lake City. The former governor of Massachusetts is largely credited with turning the troubled lead-up to that Winter Olympics around, and making them a success in his role as chief executive officer of the games.
Romney has also promised to visit all 29 counties in the state, in what appears to be an offering of his willingness to put in the work to earn Utah's seat in the Senate.
"Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in Washington," Romney says in his announcement. He proudly notes that Utah "welcomes legal immigrants" in contrast to the message Washington sends, which is one of "exclusion."
It's clearly a swipe at members of the GOP who take a hardline stance on immigration. And it's indicative of the intra-party conflicts few Republicans have been able to avoid during President Trump's rise to power. That includes, of course, Romney himself.
Example A: The head of the Utah Republican Party would prefer that Romney not run for the Senate.
In an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune, Rob Anderson said Romney's entrance would keep out candidates who "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." (Romney has a home in Utah that he has listed as his permanent address since 2013.)
Anderson's squabble appears to be a local one, as the state's GOP chairman cites "good, conservative people" who now won't even attempt to run against Romney's name power. (A poll conducted in January by the Salt Lake Tribune showed Romney not only earning overwhelming support from Republicans and Independents in a hypothetical Senate race, but also getting the nod from one out of five Democrats.)
Romney had been expected to announce his candidacy Thursday, but postponed doing so "out of respect for the victims and their families" of Wednesday's deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
With his government experience restricted to Massachusetts, many Utah voters indicate their support for him stems from Romney's successful leadership at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. He was chosen in 1999 to clean up the mess created by his predecessors, who had left the games steeped in a bribery scandal, facing budget problems, and woefully unprepared.
Fraser Bullock, the chief operating officer and chief financial officer for the Winter Games in Salt Lake City, told CNN that Utah had become "associated with bribery, which was completely against anything Utah stands for — it stands for ethics and doing the right things." He said that Romney became the "inspirational leader" that both the games and Utah needed to turn that image around.
Beehive State voters rewarded him during the 2012 presidential election, giving Romney 72.8 percent of the vote over President Obama.
One person who is likely not thrilled by the thought of Romney in the U.S. Senate is President Trump. During his presidential campaign, Romney was a fairly regular and very outspoken critic of Trump. He even gave an entire speech in 2016 devoted exclusively to calling out the then-candidate's various flaws and beseeching Republicans to abandon him.
Romney said dishonesty was "Donald Trump's hallmark." He later encouraged listeners to think about Trump's personal qualities and behavior, which he listed as: "the bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third grade theatrics."
But given Romney's popularity in Utah, even the president won't be able to do much to stop the former governor from winning Utah's Senate contest and soon joining Trump in Washington, D.C.