President Trump announced Monday night that he has endorsed Mitt Romney for the open Senate seat in Utah, calling him a “worthy successor” to Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.
“.@MittRomney has announced he is running for the Senate from the wonderful State of Utah,” Trump said in a tweet. “He will make a great Senator and worthy successor to @OrrinHatch, and has my full support and endorsement!”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 20, 2018
The endorsement comes three days after Romney announced his intention to run for the seat and despite a roller-coaster relationship between the two, including during Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016. At the time, Romney repeatedly denounced Trump’s campaign for the White House, calling him a “phony” and a “fraud.”
Romney has also criticized Trump at times during the first year of his presidency, including after the protests in Charlottesville, Va. in August.
However, the two have seen a thaw in their relationship in recent months. Since early December, the pair have spoken over the phone on at least two occasions, including once since Hatch announced that he would not seek re-election to an eighth term in office.
Thank you Mr. President for the support. I hope that over the course of the campaign I also earn the support and endorsement of the people of Utah.
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) February 20, 2018
Up until Hatch’s announcement, Trump pushed and prodded the longtime senator to run once again for the upper chamber, including on a trip to Salt Lake City in early December. However, Hatch declined and has enthusiastically endorsed Romney after pushing him since early 2017 to run for his seat.
Romney announced his campaign in a low-key rollout on social media with a web video, followed by a speech in Provo where he said that he does not plan on running as an anti-Trump candidate, but will call out the president when need be.
“If he says something I don’t like, I will call it like I see it,” Romney said.
Prior to Trump’s endorsement, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called on the president to get behind Romney’s bid for the seat, adding that he would have been surprised if he did not.
“I can’t imagine that he’s not,” McConnell, R-Ky., told the New York Times on Friday. “We don’t want to lose the seat, and this looks like a pretty formidable candidate.”