National News

Trump Endorses Mitt Romney's Run for Utah Senate Seat

Posted February 19, 2018 11:19 p.m. EST
Updated February 20, 2018 12:49 p.m. EST

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Monday that Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee and his frequent political adversary, had his blessing to run to replace Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, who will retire at the end of the year.

“He will make a great Senator and worthy successor,” Trump wrote on Twitter, “and has my full support and endorsement!”

The endorsement began yet another chapter in a fraught political relationship defined by bruising intraparty battles. Romney’s camp has privately mulled how far he should go to embrace a president whose candidacy he excoriated as bad for American democracy. And on Friday, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the Senate majority leader, publicly urged the president to support Romney.

“We don’t want to lose the seat,” McConnell said in an interview with The New York Times, “and this looks like a pretty formidable candidate.”

Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, has signaled that he plans to serve as a check on the president when needed. In a campaign video released last week, he subtly targeted policies associated with Trump, including his administration’s strict immigration agenda.

“Utah welcomes legal immigrants from around the world,” he said in the video. “Washington sends immigrants a message of exclusion.”

Trump backed Romney’s 2012 run for president, an endorsement the nominee said meant a “great deal” but served as something of a high point in their relationship.

By 2016, Trump was lobbing insults, including the curious accusation that Romney walked like a penguin. In March of that year, as Trump closed in on the Republican nomination, Romney attempted to deliver a blow by calling Trump’s incendiary brand of politics a danger to democracy.

“Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud,” Romney said in a speech in Salt Lake City. “His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University.”

Later that day, Trump returned fire in typical fashion: “He was begging for my endorsement,” Trump said. “I could’ve said, ‘Mitt, drop to your knees,’ and he would’ve dropped to his knees.”

As president-elect, Trump considered Romney for the secretary of state nomination in a process that dragged on for weeks before ultimately discarding him in favor of Rex Tillerson.

On Monday evening, the two seemed destined to make nice — or, at least, resume their delicate, calculated political dance.

“Thank you Mr. President for the support,” Romney wrote on Twitter. “I hope that over the course of the campaign I also earn the support and endorsement of the people of Utah.”