Mitt Romney is getting good at pulling up stakes

Former governor Mitt Romney has been considered a likely candidate for an open US Senate seat in Utah.
Bryan R. Smith/AFP/Getty Images/File 2016
Former governor Mitt Romney has been considered a likely candidate for an open US Senate seat in Utah.

He’s really done with us now.

I have to admit, it hurt a little when Mitt Romney changed his Twitter location from Massachusetts to Holladay, Utah, on Tuesday, shortly after US Senator Orrin Hatch announced he wouldn’t run for reelection. It’s a good bet that Romney will run to succeed him.

I’m old enough to remember when Romney fought his fickle heart out to prove he was a Massachusetts guy, through and through. That was eons ago, in 2002, when Romney had decided to run for governor here and Democrats claimed he had no right to do so because he’d put down stakes in Utah, where he’d spent three years leading the Winter Olympics.


Back then, running in Massachusetts rather than Utah made sense: Romney was considered too moderate for the Beehive State, having given folks the clear impression that he was pro-choice and favored gun control. Who knew then that, when it came to his beliefs on key issues, the man who’d saved the Salt Lake City Games could flip like an aerial skier.

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So Romney, who had lived here since 1971, raising his five boys in Belmont, fought back hard. After he testified for hours before the state ballot commission, his attorney asked him how it felt to have his veracity questioned.

“Well, it really makes me feel sick, to tell you the truth,” Romney said, tearing up. “There’s nothing more important to me than my reputation for integrity.”

It didn’t help that he’d told a Salt Lake City paper that he was considering runs in both states. He’d also accepted a property tax break on his Deer Valley, Utah, home because it was listed as his primary residence.

But Massachusetts, he repeatedly claimed, was his home. He launched an ad blitz in his defense, a TV spot showing him walking through his hometown of Belmont in his shirtsleeves. He cried discrimination, the immensely wealthy Romney comparing himself to downtrodden Irish and Italian immigrants of yore.


The Democratic challenge came to naught, and Romney became governor. Shortly thereafter, he ditched us, and a good many of his avowed beliefs, to make his first presidential run in 2008, and then a second in 2012. Sometimes he even made fun of us, because wasn’t it just hilarious being the Republican governor of loony lib Massachusetts — you know, Massachusetts, the state he loved, and raised his children in, and was his true home, and how dare anybody suggest otherwise?

I thought I was done with Romney forever after that. But then he gave that gorgeous rocket of a speech in 2016, excoriating Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump as a con man and a fake. How I loved him for that. Until he went and ate frog legs with the con man himself: Sucking up in hopes of a cabinet post, he was mercilessly suckered.

My poor heart! Utah can have him. And according to polls, they want him. Salt Lake City pollster Dan Jones tells me Romney sports an approval rating of 69 percent there. Analysts in Utah say Romney’s previous, more moderate positions — if anybody recalls them — won’t trouble voters given his national profile.

But can a guy who fought so hard to prove Massachusetts is his real home really convince people he’s a true Utahn? Sure, said the political analysts I spoke to: Romney has long owned homes there, he’s active in the Mormon church that dominates in the state, and he still sports an Olympic glow.

That won’t stop Jenny Wilson, the Democratic Salt Lake County councilwoman likely to face Romney, from trying to succeed where Democrats here failed. She worked with him on the Olympics, and likes him, but in an interview, she pointedly noted that he wasted no time leaving Utah for Massachusetts, even before the Games were officially over.


“Utah needs someone who understands the state,” she said. “I take my kids to school here every day, I go to the grocery store. I am very integrated in the community. I don’t think you can say that about Mitt Romney.”

Why does that sound familiar?

Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham can be reached at and on Twitter @GlobeAbraham