The chairman of the Utah Republican Party slammed Mitt Romney and his expected run for the Senate in Utah, and compared him to Hillary Clinton when she ran to represent New York in the Senate in 2000.
Rob Anderson spoke out against Romney’s candidacy in an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune on Wednesday. Romney is expected to announce Thursday he will run for the Senate seat currently held by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who is retiring at the end of the year.
“I think he’s keeping out candidates that I think would be a better fit for Utah because, let’s face it, Mitt Romney doesn’t live here, his kids weren’t born here, he doesn’t shop here,” Anderson told the Salt Lake Tribune.
His comments, though, were dismissed by Hatch, who said last month he would endorse Romney if he decided to run for Hatch’s seat.
“He has a home there. Rob’s pretty conservative, at least as far as I know,” Hatch told the Washington Examiner. “I don’t think he should have done that. I think it would be an honor to have Mitt Romney run.”
Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, made Utah his home after losing the 2012 general election. Last month, he changed his location on Twitter from Massachusetts to Holladay, Utah, a move that stoked speculation about a future Senate run.
Romney is well-liked in the state and is expected to win the Republican primary, as well as the general election. A January poll from the Salt Lake Tribune found 64 percent would support Romney, compared to 19 percent who said they would support Democrat Jenny Wilson.
Still, Anderson questioned Romney’s intentions with mounting a Senate run.
“I have two questions for Mitt. First of all, why? And how do you expect to represent Utah when you don’t live here?” he said.
Anderson told the Salt Lake Tribune there were three or four “good, conservative people” who wanted to run for the seat. But Romney, he said, “has been poaching all of the talent as far as campaign and messaging and financing.”
“Nobody wants to go out there like David and Goliath and get defeated by the Romney machine,” Anderson said.
He also took issue with Romney’s criticisms of President Trump. In a speech during the 2016 presidential campaign, Romney called then-candidate Trump a “phony” and a “fraud,” and urged Republican voters to oppose his candidacy.
Most recently, Romney took to Twitter to condemn vulgar comments the president made about Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations during a meeting in the Oval Office.
“He has never been a Trump supporter,” Anderson said. “I just want somebody to support the party platforms.”
Hatch, meanwhile, reiterated his support for the former governor Wednesday.
“I have such a high regard for him that I hope that he can turn any criticisms around,” he said.