Former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney finished second at the Utah Republican Convention on Saturday behind State Rep. Mike Kennedy (R-Alpine).
Romney and Kennedy will now face each other in a primary election, because neither Romney (49.12%) nor Kennedy (50.88%) reached the 60% threshold necessary to secure the party’s nomination automatically.
Kennedy celebrated his win on Twitter, while Romney put a brave face on defeat:
Thank you so much to all of the delegates for your votes today. I look forward to winning the support from voters across the state in the primary on June 26. Now let's go clean up Washington! #KennedyForUtah #utpol #UTGOP pic.twitter.com/nd04XHIB2j
— Dr. Mike Kennedy (@KennedyForUtah) April 22, 2018
Thank you to all the delegates who hung in there with us all day at the Convention. I appreciate the support I received and look forward to the primary election.
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) April 22, 2018
During the convention, Romney declined to endorse President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.
The Hill reported:
Mitt Romney says he is not ready to commit to endorsing President Trumpfor reelection in 2020.
“I will make that decision down the road,” Romney told CNN at the Utah GOP convention on Saturday. “As a person of political experience, if I endorse someone, I’ll want to know what’s in it for Utah and what help would he provide for us on key priorities in Utah.”
“So I’m not a cheap date,” he added.
Trump, however, had endorsed Romney for Senate in February, despite a history of rivalry between them.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 20, 2018
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
Romney’s second-place finish surprised many observers, who presumed that he would win the party’s nomination easily, despite being from out-of-state.
He reportedly blamed his poor showing on delegates’ frustration over a procedural dispute, according to the Salt Lake Tribune:
Romney blamed his second-place finish — out of a dozen Republicans seeking the seat of retiring seven-term Sen. Orrin Hatch — on delegates’ dislike of candidates like him who hedge their convention bids by also gathering signatures to ensure at least a place on the primary ballot.
Romney collected more than 28,000 signatures and was the only Senate candidate to do so.
Conservatives have for several years fought in court and in the Legislature to overturn the state law allowing signature gathering, seeing it as weakening the power of the convention and its delegates.
The Utah primary election will be held on June 26.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named to Forward’s 50 “most influential” Jews in 2017. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.