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Tipsheet

Mitt Romney Could Soon Be Getting a Primary Challenger

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

It's been a busy week for Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT). As Landon covered on Tuesday, the senator was the lone Republican to vote that night against a resolution that removes mask mandates for public transportation. He also spoke at a fundraiser in support of Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY). Now, the news of the day is that Romney may be facing a primary challenger. He's up for re-election in 2024.

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A Tuesday report from POLITICO indicates that that potential challenger, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, will announce his plans in May. Reyes is not only a supporter of former President Donald Trump, he backed his efforts to challenge the 2020 election. 

Comments from "a person who is familiar with Reyes’ plans," told POLITICO Reyes may run regardless of what Romney, who is 75-years old, decides for 2024. 

According to POLITICO:

Reyes, who has been elected statewide three times, in recent weeks has discussed the matter with key players in Utah politics and with allies of the former president, according to a person who is familiar with Reyes’ plans. Reyes will make a final decision and likely announce his intentions in May.

“Sean is very seriously considering running, regardless if Mitt runs or not,” the person said. “He’s confident that regardless of what Sen. Romney wants to do, he’s going to pursue this.”

...

“I guarantee Trump will come up with somebody,” said Carson Jorgensen, chair of the Utah Republican Party. “There’s enough vitriol there that no matter if Trump is running for president, he will run a candidate against Romney.”

A Trump loyalist who served as Utah co-chair for Trump’s reelection campaign, Reyes had one-on-one meetings with the former president in September and December 2020, said the person familiar with Reyes’ plans, and each time Trump encouraged him to run against Romney.

“When he meets with Trump, the only thing that comes up is ‘Will you run against Romney? I need you to run against Romney. Get that guy out,’” the person recalled.

A spokesperson for Trump didn’t directly say whether Trump has encouraged Reyes to run for the seat.

“There isn’t a Republican candidate in the country who isn’t seeking the support of President Trump,” said spokesperson Taylor Budowich. “Mitt Romney will be replaced in 2024 by a champion for America First, that goes without question — he abandoned Utah and caved to the Radical Left.”

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Romney and the former president have been at odds in plenty of ways. Perhaps most memorably is not only Romney's vote in favor of impeachment for his Trump's second impeachment trial which concluded in February, after Trump had already left office, but his first impeachment trial, which took place in the early months of 2020. By voting in favor of impeachment on the first count, Romney became the first senator in American history to vote to convict a president of his own party.  

Like other senators who voted to convict Trump in the second impeachment trial, Romney was censured by the Weber County Republican Convention last May. Earlier that same month, as I covered, he was booed at the Utah GOP convention for such a vote. 

At the end of the day, though, it's worth remembering that so long as Romney doesn't seek higher office (again), the only people whose opinion matters are the voters of Utah. Speaking of higher office, though, Reason Editor Robby Soave, who as our friends at Twitchy last week had a fun time highlighting, claimed "it's pretty obvious that the Republican with the very best shot of beating Biden in 2024 is Mitt Romney."

A Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll from last month shows Romney has a 51 percent approval rating there among Republicans and Democrats. Among unaffiliated voters, he has a 54 percent approval rating. 

Even if he does safely hold onto his seat, a primary opponent may give Romney a run for his money when it comes to his stance on the issues that Utahns care about. 

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Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), meanwhile, is up for re-election this year. Former presidential candidate Evan McMullin is looking to be a formidable challenger to Lee by running as an independent. In a column published for Townhall last month, Kurt Schlichter had an apt analysis on that race. 

Romney has so far not endorsed anyone in the race and doesn't plan to. 

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