April 22, 2018 / 4:53 AM / 6 months ago

Romney fails to win Republican nomination for Senate, heads to primary in June

(This version of the April 21 story corrects headline to June from November)

By Rich McKay

(Reuters) - Mitt Romney’s restart of his political career hit a roadblock Saturday.

The 2012 Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor failed to win the Utah Republican Party’s nomination, which means he must face 11 challengers in a June primary for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch.

FILE PHOTO - Former U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks at the Utah County Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner, in Provo, Utah, U.S. February 16, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

Romney needed at least 60 percent of the votes from delegates at the Utah GOP convention Saturday to head to the November election unopposed, but he earned only 49.12 percent, CNN and other media reported.

Romney was considered the political favorite by political observers and U.S. President Donald Trump endorsed Romney in February.

The president said on Twitter in February that Romney “will make a great Senator and worthy successor to @OrrinHatch, and has my full support and endorsement!”

But Romney and the president have not always been political allies.

Romney excoriated Trump in the 2016 presidential campaign and said he was a “fraud” who was “playing the American public for suckers.” Trump responded that Romney had “choked like a dog” in his 2012 campaign against President Barack Obama.

FILE PHOTO - Former U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks at the Utah County Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner, in Provo, Utah, U.S. February 16, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

Despite the criticism, Trump briefly considered making Romney his Secretary of State.

Romney said in February that he generally approves of Trump’s agenda, but would call out the president if needed.

“I’m with the president’s domestic policy agenda of low taxes, low regulation, smaller government, pushing back against the bureaucrats,” Romney said. “I’m not always with the president on what he might say or do, and if that happens I’ll call them like I see them, the way I have in the past.”

Romney was criticized by some delegates for being a latecomer to the state, moving to Utah relatively recently, CNN reported.

Romney’s campaign could not be reached for comment early Sunday.

Reporting by Rich McKay; Editing by Stephen Coates

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