Romney 2020? Republicans speculate that Romney's likely Senate run is the start of something much bigger

  • Republicans are speculating that 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney could use a Senate seat to launch himself into a much more powerful position.
  • Some, including Utah's governor, believe he could become the next Republican leader in the Senate.
  • But others think he may challenge Donald Trump for the presidency in 2020, or making a third bid for the White House in 2024.


It's no secret that Mitt Romney is, in all likelihood, going to run for a Senate seat in Utah.

What's less clear, however, is why the man who was the 2012 Republican presidential nominee and is now retired and occupying an elder-statesman role in a party torn into warring factions would want to serve as a junior senator.

People who might run against Trump in 2020:

44 PHOTOS
People who might run against Trump in 2020
See Gallery
People who might run against Trump in 2020

Former Vice President Joe Biden

(Photo by Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

(Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)

(Photo by Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Sen. Kamala Davis (D-Calif.)

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.)

(Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg

(Photo by David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.)

(Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)

Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (D)

(Photo by: REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes)

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)

(Photo by: Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo

(Photo credit MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley

(Photo credit NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro

(Photo by Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.)

(Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.)

(Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)

(Photo credit ZACH GIBSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick

(Photo by Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio

(Photo by James Keivom/NY Daily News via Getty Images)

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban

(Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Environmental activist Tom Steyer

(Photo by David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez

(Photo by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic)

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton 

(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom

(Photo by Yichuan Cao/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg

(Photo credit FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

Former first lady Michelle Obama

(Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images)

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz

(Photo credit should read JASON REDMOND/AFP/Getty Images)

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson

(Photo by Donna Ward/Getty Images)

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii)

(Photo credit TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.)

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y)

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

California Gov. Jerry Brown

(Photo by Tiffany Rose/Getty Images for Caruso )

Media mogul Oprah Winfrey

(Photo by Moeletsi Mabe/Sunday Times/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.)

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Former Vice President Al Gore

(Photo credit DAVID MCNEW/AFP/Getty Images)

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.)

(Photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Former Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.)

(Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti

(Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images,)

Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.)

(Photo by Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu

Albin Lohr-Jones/Pool via Bloomberg

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee

(Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Once elected, Romney would find himself embroiled in day-to-day congressional fights and less free to voice his criticisms of the White House, while losing some of the deference he's been shown by members of his own party. 

But listen to any number of Republicans and you'll find many who believe Romney will use the Senate seat as a springboard to a much more powerful position. But they differ on what, exactly, that position would be. 

Romney could make a beeline for Senate leadership

One Republican consultant connected to the White House told Business Insider he thinks Romney's move after being elected is pretty clear: succeed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as the GOP leader after 2020. 

"If anything, it's Romney setting himself up to replace Mitch McConnell," the consultant said.

Romney would enter the body with much more clout than his Republican colleagues, including Sens. John Cornyn of Texas and John Thune of South Dakota, both possible contenders for the leadership position. And, he added, McConnell, who has the lowest approval rating in the Senate, may decide not to put himself through what would likely be a tough Republican primary.

Romney, he said, could "unite the caucus."

That consultant is not alone in his thinking. Earlier this week, one of Romney's biggest supporters, Republican Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, suggested to reporters that, if elected to the Senate, Romney could become the Republican leader and run Congress with his 2012 running mate, House Speaker Paul Ryan. 

Mitt Romney through the years:

41 PHOTOS
Mitt Romney through the years
See Gallery
Mitt Romney through the years
Mitt Romney campaigning for US Senate against Senator Ted Kennedy in Boston, MA in 1994. (Photo by Rick Friedman/Corbis via Getty Images)
2008 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (L) in an archive family photo with his father George (C) and his brother Scott in 1965, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. (Photo by Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images)
2008 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in an archive family photo with his now wife Ann Davis in 1964. (Photo by Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images)
US Senate candidate Mitt Romney speaking at senior center in Chelsea, MA in 1994. Romney is challenging Senator Ted Kennedy. (Photo by Rick Friedman/Corbis via Getty Images)
2008 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in an archive family photo at age 11, in 1958. (Photo by Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images)
2008 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in an archive family photo with his father George in their Michigan family home in 1957. (Photo by Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images)
Mitt Romney, candidate for US Senate from MA, with his wife Ann Romney after receiving the endorsement of the Boston Police Patrolman's Association in Boston, MA in October 24,1994. (Photo by Rick Friedman/Corbis via Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY - FEBRUARY 9: Mitt Romney, Chairman of the Salt Lake City Olympics Organizing Committee on the first night at the Medals Ceremonies in The Medals Plaza. (Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
399749 01: Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC) President and CEO Mitt Romney speaks about the upcoming 2002 Olympic Winter Games at a press conference January 16, 2002 at SLOC Headquarters in Salt Lake City, UT. The winter games begin February 8, 2002. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
8 Feb 2002: President and CEO of SLOC Mitt Romney chats with President George W. Bush during the Opening Ceremony at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah. DIGITAL IMAGE. Mandatory Credit: Harry How/Getty Images
BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 11: Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney listens to a reporter's question during a news conference prior to the legislature's Constitutional Convention to consider a proposed amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman February 11, 2004 in Boston, Massachusetts. The proposed amendment, supported by Governor Mitt Romney, was drafted in response to a state Supreme Judicial Court ruling declaring same-sex marriage constitutional. (Photo by Michael Springer/Getty Images)
BOSTON - DECEMBER 17: On the way to Revere to hold a press conference about housing, Gov. Mitt Romney enjoys his ride on the Blue Line. (Photo by Janet Knott/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
HOLYOKE - JANUARY 9: Eighth grade student Tirsa Romero at the John J. Lynch Middle School sits behind Gov. Mitt Romney and State Education Commissioner David Driscoll, left, as they view a video that the governor brought to show the 400 students that gathered for his appearance. The governor talked to the students about the choices you make in life and the video was about Olympic Gold Medal skier Janica Kostelic, of Croatia, and how she over came injuries and the dedication she had to her training that rewarded her with a Gold Medal at the Utah Olympics. (Photo by Tom Landers/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON - JULY 3: Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney shakes hands with members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir prior to their rehearsal for the 4th of July show at the Hatch Shell Thursday evening. (Photo by David Kamerman/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Republican Presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney campaigning with his wife Anne Romney at the Granite Oath PAC's 2011 Presidential Candidate Reception at the home of Ovide and Bettie Lamontagne in Manchester, NH on August 12, 2011 (Photo by Rick Friedman/Corbis via Getty Images)
Republican Presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney campaigning with his wife Anne Romney at the Granite Oath PAC's 2011 Presidential Candidate Reception at the home of Ovide and Bettie Lamontagne in Manchester, NH on August 12, 2011 (Photo by Rick Friedman/Corbis via Getty Images)
GOP Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney and his wife Ann greet supporters at a campaign rally after the conclusion of the Iowa Caucuses in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Ralf-Finn Hestoft/Corbis via Getty Images)
GOP Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney speaks to supporters as his wife Ann and four of his five sons watch at a campaign rally after the conclusion of the Iowa Caucuses in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Ralf-Finn Hestoft/Corbis via Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate US Senator John McCain (R-AZ) speaks after receiving the endorsement of former primary rival Mitt Romney, right, at Romney's campaign headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts February 14, 2008. Romney asked his 200-plus delegates to vote for McCain at the Republican convention this summer. REUTERS/Neal Hamberg (UNITED STATES) US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN 2008 (USA)
Former Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney speaks during the third session of the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota September 3, 2008. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES) US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN 2008 (USA)
U.S. Republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (R) laughs with his grandson Parker Mitt Romney, 18 months, as he campaigns at the William D. Ford Senior Center in Taylor, Michigan January 13, 2008. REUTERS/John Gress (UNITED STATES) US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN 2008 (USA)
Republican presidential candidates former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (L) and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich share a laugh during a break in the Republican presidential candidates debate in Charleston, South Carolina, January 19, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign rally in West Des Moines, Iowa December 30, 2011, ahead of the Iowa Caucus on January 3, 2012. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS HEADSHOT TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
U.S. Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann gather before the start of their debate in Ames, Iowa August 11, 2011 REUTERS/Jim Young (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS IMAGES OF THE DAY)
U.S. Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney holds a baby in the audience at a campaign stop at Centro Incorporated in North Liberty, Iowa December 28, 2011. The Iowa Caucus will be held on January 3, 2012. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Republican U.S. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney (L) introduces U.S. Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) as his vice-presidential running mate during a campaign event at the retired battleship USS Wisconsin in Norfolk, Virginia, August 11, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
U.S. Republican presidential candidate former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum speaks as former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (R) looks on during the Republican presidential candidates debate in Mesa, Arizona, February 22, 2012. REUTERS/Joshua Lott (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
U.S. Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney kisses his wife Ann at his Illinois primary night rally in Schaumburg, Illinois, March 20, 2012. REUTERS/Jim Young (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney hands Madison Busch, 1, to her mother after a campaign event at an RV dealer in Loveland, Colorado February 7, 2012. The Colorado caucuses take place today. REUTERS/Rick Wilking (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
U.S. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama speak directly to each other during the second U.S. presidential debate in Hempstead, New York, October 16, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS USA PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
U.S. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney (L) and vice-presidential nominee U.S. Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) wave to the crowd at a campaign rally in Fishersville, Virginia October 4, 2012. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS USA PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney (L) shakes hands with President Barack Obama at the start of the first 2012 U.S. presidential debate in Denver October 3, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS USA PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney watches the Vice Presidential debate in his hotel room in Asheville, North Carolina October 11, 2012. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS USA PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney waves as he arrives onstage to accept the nomination during the final session of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, August 30, 2012. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES - Tags: ELECTIONS POLITICS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Former Republican U.S. presidential nominee Mitt Romney criticizes current Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during a speech at the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah March 3, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Former Massachusetts Governor and two-time presidential candidate Mitt Romney (L) and five-time heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield stare down during their weigh-in before their boxing match in Holladay, Utah May 14, 2015. The two will box on Friday to benefit the medical charity CharityVision. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump shakes hands with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney after their meeting at the main clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, U.S., November 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump sits at a table for dinner with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (R) and his choice for White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus (L) at Jean-Georges at the Trump International Hotel & Tower in New York, U.S., November 29, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney looks up at people waving to him from an open window after meeting with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump at the main clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, U.S., November 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - OCTOBER 18: Former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney attends the game between the Denver Nuggets and the Utah Jazz on October 18, 2017 at vivint.SmartHome Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney speaks after a dinner meeting with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump at Jean-Georges inside of the Trump International Hotel & Tower in New York, U.S., November 29, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Speaking to Business Insider, Herbert said he's hopeful that Romney will publicly announce his Senate bid before the end of the month. His path to victory would be pretty clear: Romney enjoys overwhelming popularity in the state, which hasn't sent a Democrat to the Senate in decades.

A devout Mormon, Romney has deep religious and familial connections to the state and is beloved for rescuing Salt Lake City's 2002 Winter Olympics after a bribery scandal.

"He'll enter as a freshman senator much different than the typical freshman senator," Herbert said. "He will have a lot of cache, national exposure, he's a personality in politics, he's a leader in the Republican Party, and so he won't be just your typical freshman senator. I expect that the leadership in the Senate will understand that and appreciate they have an opportunity to bring somebody into the leadership roles in the Senate that can help them get their agenda done."

Herbert pointed to Romney's past experience as governor of Massachusetts, a deeply blue state, as proof that he can work with Democrats to produce results, something Herbert said should be attractive to Republican leadership.

"That kind of skill set and talent is what's needed in the Senate today and I think he'll fit the bill," Herbert said. "I think not only will be have an opportunity, but he'll be encouraged by those in the leadership and those in the Senate to put him in some prominent roles, which could lead him into a leadership role, eventually, in the Senate."

As Herbert noted, first thing's first: Romney needs to announce. But he's dropped breadcrumbs pointing to an upcoming run. On the day Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch announced he would not seek reelection, Romney changed the location on his Twitter account from Massachusetts to Holladay, Utah. And as The New York Times reported earlier this month, Romney recently texted a close friend and said "I'm running."

Still, there are others who surmise that Romney's aspirations are grander even than becoming party leader.

Romney 2020?

Roger Stone, a GOP operative and longtime confidant of President Donald Trump, thinks Romney wants to challenge Trump in a 2020 run for president. 

"I have sources in the Utah Republican Party, I have sources relatively high up in the Church of Latter Day Saints, it also makes no sense why someone at Mitt Romney's age, who has been an executive in every position he's ever had, would want to be a freshman senator, and therefore I believe and my contacts in Utah are absolutely insistent that he will use the Senate seat as a launchpad for a challenge to Donald Trump," Stone told Business Insider.

"He certainly has the financial network to do that. He certainly can generate the press coverage to do that. I don’t think he'll win, but that's a different question."

Stone predicted that once Romney is sworn into the Senate, he'll become the "replacement" for Republican Sen. John McCain, who has consistently spoken out against Trump's policies and rhetoric, and become "a thorn in Donald Trump's side."

"And he'll use it as a launchpad for another bid for president," he said, adding that Trump could either "be unbeatable or he could be vulnerable" in 2020.

Others aren't quite as confident in that theory as Stone is, but many don't totally discount another Romney presidential bid. At times, Romney has expressed regret for not jumping into the 2016 race, and has often been disappointed with Trump, who he called a "fraud" during the campaign, though he did make a bid to be Trump's secretary of state.

Chris Ruddy, the CEO of Newsmax and another longtime confidant of Trump's, said he doesn't think Romney will mount a primary challenge against the president, but said he may run if Trump does not. In fact, he actually thinks that Romney "will be generally supportive" of Trump, even though "he will have disagreements."

"If the president decides not to run again in 2020, I could see Mitt Romney taking a stab at it again," Ruddy told Business Insider.

Other Republicans agreed there is little chance of Romney challenging Trump. Reed Galen, former deputy campaign manager to McCain during his 2008 presidential bid, told Business Insider that Romney would "almost certainly have to run as an independent," as the GOP "as it's currently constituted would not vote for Romney over Trump" in a primary.

Barry Bennett, a former Trump campaign aide, said the establishment as a whole would have no chance of overtaking Trump if the economy continues to grow during his first term.

Matt Mackowiak, a GOP strategist, told Business Insider he sees Romney's Senate bid as "less Machiavellian and more just patriotism," but said that "all bets are off" if Trump does not seek reelection. 

Meanwhile, Herbert isn't ruling out the possibility that Romney will once again make a run for the White House.

Though he said the former governor will "focus" on his Senate bid and on advancing a number of Republican policy objectives, Herbert said "like any other politician, if the doors open up, if opportunities present themselves, he'll certainly take a look at anything."

"But after Trump there will be an opening for sure, and who knows, he might want to say after being a senator maybe he’d want to run for the presidency," he said. "I have no idea that he would, he'd be a little older at that time, but I just think anybody talking about anything other than him being a senator is pure speculation and imaginative thinking and we ought to just focus on the task we have at hand."

Herbert, who has been critical of Trump and refused to vote for him in the general election, said he doesn't know of anybody who will challenge the incumbent president in 2020.

"But let's just say that in politics, just like in going to the grocery store and picking up a loaf of bread, it's all about choice," he said. "What particular brand do you like and what are the options on the shelf. And so it depends on what the options are."

NOW WATCH: A reporter who met with the former spy behind the Trump-Russia dossier explains why it’s not 'fake news'

See Also:

SEE ALSO: The most conservative congressmen are going all-out to fight for Trump against Mueller and the Russia probe

Read Full Story