This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
When Sen. Orrin Hatch floated the prospect that he would step aside and not run for re-election if another top-notch candidate emerged say, Mitt Romney he might as well have said George Washington.
Then things took an unexpected turn Thursday when McKay Coppins, citing numerous unnamed sources, reported that Romney was, indeed, exploring the possibility and that he had actually talked to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell about the prospect of running.
If Romney runs, his victory would, naturally, be a surer bet than President Donald Trump tweeting something inflammatory and stupid sometime in the next four years. Or maybe four minutes.
But there are endless reasons to think that the Romney rumor isn't much more than soda fountain chatter for Utah politicos.
Romney is a former chief executive officer, governor, head of Salt Lake's Olympics and came relatively close to being president of the United States.
Aside from having zero legislative experience at any level, is there any reason to believe that he would want to be Utah's junior senator Robin to Sen. Mike Lee's Batman and one of 100 in a body incapable of conjuring the consensus to order a pizza?
Would he really want to be a cog in the legislative machine designed to implement the vision of a president who Romney called "a phony [and] a fraud" and blistered Trump for "bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third-grade theatrics."
That's not to mention Trump's public humiliation of Romney, making him grovel for the prospect of being Secretary of State, then passing him over.
Romney turned 70 last month. If he takes over the seat, he would be 72 early in his term and 77 when he would have to decide to run for re-election or retire as a one-term senator.
His health isn't the issue. Rather, for a guy who very publicly relishes the role of grandpa, there's surely appeal to playing with his 24 grandchildren back home rather than wrangling petulant children in Congress.
There's another component to all of this: Romney's son, Josh Romney, has not been shy about his interest in being governor. Ann Romney, appearing recently on the Today Show, was asked if she thought Josh Romney should run for governor in 2020.
"I definitely see it in the lights for Josh," she said. "It's worth making a difference. It's worth trying to get involved. Let your voice be heard. Get in there."
Josh Romney's prospects would be severely complicated, however, if his dad is in the Senate. Voters tend to not like dynasties and may not be keen on putting Romneys in two of the state's highest offices, particularly if they have options like Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, potentially House Speaker Greg Hughes and Evan McMullin, last year's independent presidential candidate, on the "Not Romney" side of the ledger.
Ann Romney, in that same Today Show interview, talked about her new book discussing living the last 19 years with multiple sclerosis and, asked about a return to politics, said she and her husband are "enjoying life the way it is right now."
Certainly, the Romney rumors are intriguing and it has frozen the field for now.
Hatch insists he is undecided on another re-election bid next year, but has been raising money and elevating his profile. Polls show voters overwhelmingly favor a change but so did they when he coasted to re-election in 2012.
Derek Miller, the CEO of the World Trade Center Utah and former chief of staff to Gov. Gary Herbert, says he is laying the groundwork for a possible Senate run, attending Republican Party dinners around the state and talking to potential supporters. He would step aside and support Romney, but won't stand down for Hatch.
"I have nothing against Senator Hatch and I'm grateful for his service," Miller said. "But I don't believe our system was intended to work this way, to have people who serve more than four decades.… I think it's one of the reasons the system isn't working, and we see that kind of dysfunction in Washington ad nauseum."
So we'll wait for Mitt to let us know his thinking. But my guess is that each of us has indignities we will not bear and, for Mitt Romney, that includes being a U.S. senator.