WASHINGTON — President Trump on Monday night threw his full support behind Mitt Romney’s bid to be the next US senator from Utah, writing on Twitter that Romney would be a ‘‘worthy successor’’ to Republican Orrin Hatch, who is retiring.
The endorsement is significant because Trump had previously encouraged Hatch to seek another term, and Romney had been among the most vocal Republican critics of Trump’s presidential aspirations, once calling him ‘‘a phony’’ and ‘‘a fraud.’’
‘‘MittRomney has announced he is running for the Senate from the wonderful State of Utah. He will make a great Senator and worthy successor to @OrrinHatch, and has my full support and endorsement!’’ Trump wrote on Twitter on Monday night.
Shortly after Trump’s tweet, Romney wrote on Twitter: ‘‘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.’’
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 on Friday announced his long-expected Senate bid in his adopted state of Utah with a low-key rollout intended to duck Republican divisions and avoid signaling that he will play the role of foil to Trump.
In his announcement, and in a video, Romney, 70, touted his leadership of the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, his tenure as Massachusetts governor, his degree from Brigham Young University, and his 24 grandchildren. He made no mention of Trump.
Despite his harsh criticism of Trump during the 2016 election cycle, Trump considered Romney for his secretary of state but ultimately passed him over for Rex Tillerson.
In a March 2016 speech, Romney said Trump’s ‘‘promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He’s playing members of the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House, and all we get is a lousy hat.’’