Mitt Romney for US Senate?

Brian Gongol

With Senator Orrin Hatch announcing that he won't run for re-election next year, pundits and political addicts are looking at Mitt Romney, who is by all accounts a shoo-in for the seat, should he choose to run.

Romney has of course taken the diplomatic course, taking today's news only as an opportunity to offer his best wishes to Hatch. That won't be enough to satisfy the hungry audiences for long.

Anyone who has seen the documentary "Mitt" (and if you haven't, make plans to see it soon) should understand why I think there's a place for someone of Romney's personal character in national public life. In fact, there isn't just a place for it -- there's a vacuum where it ought to be.

People don't have to agree with Romney's policy views to understand why the Senate would be better off with more people of intelligence, character, and decency like him. I happen to dream that there's a parallel universe somewhere in which President Mitt Romney was elected in 2012 and re-elected in 2016, and has spent not a single day golfing or picking juvenile fights with the Justice Department and the FBI, and where his warnings about Russia turned into a sensible policy for action instead of a punch line. That other Planet Earth is a much happier, safer, and prosperous place, I think.

But that parallel universe isn't ours, which means we have to do as Theodore Roosevelt said: "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are." Romney's skills are actually best-suited to a role as an executive officer. I have no doubt that as President he would be in the Oval Office for eight to ten hours a day, six days a week, and delivering tangible results for a country that is tired of broken promises.

As a Senator, he would be able to do much less -- as one out of 100, the best of his talents would probably spend little time on high display. But there are few institutions where a person with a real voice can reach as many Americans on the national issues as in the Senate. It's a place where further ambitions to executive office are usually doomed (Presidents Kennedy and Obama both escaped the trap of running for the White House from the Senate mostly because they were young), but it's a grand place to have people who can be models of upright character and principle.

Yet with a Senate seat comes an instant national profile, even for novice politicians. And Romney isn't one of those. Even if he were to take the office mainly as a way to insert an independent vision of conservative principle into the national agenda, it would be good for the country. Teddy Roosevelt's words are relevant here: We might not get all of the Romney-like leaders we want, but if we have any of them, we ought to try to put them to their highest use. If, for now, that place is in the Senate, then it is up to the people of Utah to do what they can with the Romney they have.