Former governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney has won the GOP nomination for Utah Senate with 73.3 percent of the vote. His opponent, Dr. Mike Kennedy, only managed to win one county, according to The New York Times.
“Well, it looks like our team won the primary,” Romney said to his supporters as they cheered.
Who was running?
Romney, a former governor and presidential candidate, tried and failed to clinch the endorsement of the Utah Republican party at the GOP state convention in April. Had he managed to do this, he could have gone straight to the general election in November and bypassed the primary altogether. But the delegates decided to make him work for his nomination, and voted for Kennedy over Romney by 51 to 49 percent.
Kennedy had accused Romney of being a flip-flopper who only moved to Utah to run for this Senate seat. Romney, meanwhile, was popular in Utah for having saved the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002.
A poll taken between June 11 and June 18 showed Romney with a commanding 42 point lead over Kennedy. Kennedy, however, dismissed the poll, claiming that his campaign's own, internal polling “is showing differently.”
Romney's campaign was also much better funded than Kennedy's. In the past two months, Romney reportedly took in nearly $2 million, compared to Kennedy's $152,000. Romney also brought an additional $1 million with him from his failed 2012 presidential bid.
What about November?
Utah is a heavily conservative state, and both Republican candidates had polled well against their potential Democratic opponent. The same poll that showed Romney with a 42 point lead over Kennedy also showed him beating Democrat Jenny Wilson 58.4 percent to 19.6 percent. It also showed Kennedy beating Wilson 43.4 percent to 27.5 percent.
Why is this Senate seat up for grabs?
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) announced in January that he would be retiring in 2018 at the end of his seventh term as U.S. Senator. Hatch is currently the long-serving Republican Senator in United States history, having been elected in 1977 (Strom Thurmond was a Senator for about six years longer, but he ran as a Democrat for the first ten years that he was in the Senate).