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Mitt Romney is back in state politics, this time in Utah instead of Massachusetts. However, conservatives in The Beehive State aren’t exactly warming up to the 2012 Republican standard-bearer quite the way many people expected they would.
After finishing second in votes at the state GOP convention, Romney will now face a primary in his run for the Senate seat being vacated by Orrin Hatch, Fox News reported.
At the convention in West Valley City on Saturday, Romney polled just behind state lawmaker Mike Kennedy.
Kennedy captured 50.18 percent of the delegate vote compared to Romney’s 49.12 percent.
That means the two will face off in a primary on June 26 to determine who will represent the GOP this fall.
Romney, the first Mormon to head a major party ticket, is considered an extremely popular figure in Utah and was widely expected to have an easy path to the upper chamber.
In a hypothetical matchup with Democrat Jenny Wilson, at least one poll showed Romney up by 46 percent. That’s, uh, slightly more than the margin of error.
However, among party loyalists, Romney isn’t exactly viewed with unalloyed fondness.
The 2012 presidential nominee was always known for being decidedly moderate, particularly on issues of immigration and global trade. There was also the fact that he ran a campaign so bumbling that it almost made Michael Dukakis look good.
And then there was Romney’s war of words with Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign, which likely led many to perceive he secretly wished Hillary Clinton would take the Oval Office.
Trump would later consider Romney as a secretary of state pick, although how serious the president-elect was about appointing him is something we’ll likely never know.
While your average Utah Republican is unlikely to let these slights affect their vote, hardcore party activists probably don’t want another RINO who isn’t exactly known for his rapport with the president in the upper chamber of Congress, no matter how famous he may be.
For his part, Romney tried to put a good spin on the humiliation.
“I’m delighted with the outcome. Did very, very well,” he told KSTU. “On to a good, important primary ahead. This is terrific for the people of Utah.”
Dude, you just lost to a guy nobody has ever heard of. However, Kennedy was happy with the results, and unlike Romney, he had good reason to be.
“I’m a candidate with a compelling life story and a unique set of life circumstances I’d like to use to serve the people of Utah,” Kennedy said.
I have no idea what that story or those circumstances are, but I think the key point here is that he’s not Mitt Romney. If he wants to win, that’s pretty much what he should be focusing on. I can see the billboards now. “Mike Kennedy: Not Mitt Romney.” “Mike Kennedy: He didn’t borrow Ward Cleaver’s haircut.” “Mike Kennedy: Because Utah deserves a senator whose favorite food isn’t buttered noodles.”
Utah’s electorate tends to be less conservative than convention-goers, so it’s unlikely that Romney won’t be the GOP nominee for Senate. However, that’s not a 100 percent certainty — and it wouldn’t be the first time he’s lost to a Kennedy.