Once Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) announced his retirement, speculation immediately began that Mitt Romney would run for his seat. A closer look at a recent UtahPolicy.com poll shows Romney faces an intriguing challenge if he ran for Senate:
Would he be able to triple the votes cast for his Democrat opponent, or merely double them?
Actually, when you dive into the details of the poll in question, it’s not inconceivable that Romney might even be able to earn quadruple his opponent’s votes.
I’m being completely serious. Willard Mitt Romney is insanely popular in Utah. Garfield does not love lasagna as much as Utahns love Romney.
The UtahPolicy.com poll was conducted last November, when Hatch was still expected to run for re-election, but they did poll Romney separately against Salt Lake City Council member Jenny Wilson, the Democrat running for the seat.
In that contest, the 600 registered Utah voters who were the survey respondents overwhelmingly picked Romney over Wilson by a devastating 72 percent to 21 percent. Seven percent were undecided and a margin of error was +/- 4 points.
I think Romney has a chance, you guys. pic.twitter.com/pjN6Xx3zoM
— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) January 2, 2018
“If Mitt Romney were to win the GOP nomination, it would be pretty much game over, as his support would come from all across the board,” wrote Bryan Schott, UtahPolicy.com Managing Editor.
Schott’s assessment is clear from the details of the poll. Romney would sweep Republican voters, 94 percent to 2 percent, and would also perform very strongly with independent voters, 64 percent to 26 percent.
Wilson wouldn’t even be able to expect the loyalty of her fellow Democrats, with 22 percent of them breaking ranks to vote for Romney.
Add in the GOP’s strength in Utah, and Romney’s electoral fortunes look even brighter. Out of over 1.5 million Utah voters, 715,854 are Republicans and only 177,823 are Democrats. The remaining 651,356 voters who registered as independent or third party still tend to lean conservative in their voting patterns, as reflected in Romney’s better than 2-to-1 margin with independents in the poll.
Utah State University political science professor Damon Cann was quoted in September as saying Romney would most likely be unbeatable if he ran for Utah’s Senate seat, even if not all Republican voters viewed him as in complete alignment with their views or had concerns about his criticism of President Donald Trump:
“There’s no one on the planet who could beat Mitt Romney in a Senate race in Utah,” quipped Cann. “Romney is widely admired and appreciated in the state of Utah. If Sen. Hatch doesn’t run, there will be a collective sigh of relief from many Utahns. If Mitt Romney does run, there will be cheers from the gallery and enthusiasm from every corner of the state.”
But, Cann thinks Romney would draw some opposition from within the Republican Party, but it would be minimal.
“Romney has been very public and very high profile expressing his disappointment with President Donald Trump and what he sees as Trump’s shortcomings. There will be some core Trump supporters who would be unhappy to see Romney run for that reason,” says Cann. “You could also see a Chris Herrod-type, classic right wing Republican who would worry that Romney was not sufficiently conservative enough to represent Utah in the Senate. I have a hard time imagining that either set of voices would get traction.”
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.