Mitt Romney launched his political comeback on Friday, announcing a widely anticipated run for Utah's Senate seat.
The two-time presidential candidate dropped a two-minute campaign video early Friday morning. Standing in Utah’s Olympic Oval, he recalled his work as chief executive of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Winter Games and made the case for Utahns to send him to Washington.
“I’ve decided to run for United States Senate because I believe I can help bring Utah’s values and Utah’s lessons to Washington," he said.
I am running for United States Senate to serve the people of Utah and bring Utah's values to Washington. pic.twitter.com/TDkas6gD2p
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) February 16, 2018
Romney praised his adoptive state as a model for Washington's current dysfunction, citing its fiscal conservatism and welcoming attitude toward immigrants.
"Utah welcomes legal immigrants from around the world; Washington sends immigrants a message of exclusion," he said.
Romney has been a vocal critic of Trump in the past, and observers will be watching to see if he’ll continue that in his campaign. Jason Perry, director of the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics, said that’s a fine line to walk in a state where Trump’s approval rating hovers near 50 percent.
“It is clear that Mitt Romney is not going to be successful if he is the opposition to Trump, or if he’s the one that embraces him completely," he said. "This has to be a campaign for Mitt Romney that is independent of what the President says or doesn’t say.”
Romney has indicated he has warmed to President Trump — or at least his agenda — since being passed over for the role of Secretary of State. Romney said he favors the low tax, low regulation policies of the Republican-led Congress.
He will be running for the seat being vacated by longtime Sen. Orrin Hatch, who will retire at the end of this term — his seventh in Congress. Hatch had expressed a preference for the 70-year-old Romney to replace him, prompting some criticism that Hatch was "coronating" Romney.
Romney seemed to address some critics of his bid head-on during the video.
“I will owe the Senate seat to no one but the people of Utah,” he said.
Romney, who grabbed 73 percent of the vote in Utah during his 2012 presidential run, is heavily favored to win. Recent polling showed Romney beating a potential Democratic challenger, Salt Lake County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson, by 45 points in a match-up.