Romney wins Utah primary race

Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyGraham's COVID-19 'breakthrough' case jolts Senate The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate finalizes .2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill Senators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session MORE is projected to win the GOP nomination in Utah’s Senate race, essentially clearing the way for the former presidential nominee to claim a Senate seat this fall.

The Associated Press called the race for Romney at 10:24 p.m.

Romney defeated state Rep. Mike Kennedy (R) in Tuesday’s primary in the race to replace retiring GOP Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchCongress, stop holding 'Dreamers' hostage Drug prices are declining amid inflation fears The national action imperative to achieve 30 by 30 MORE. Since Utah is a deep-red state, Romney is expected to cruise to victory in November, which will mark his political comeback since running for president in 2012.

The former Massachusetts governor has previously run for Senate. He made his political debut in 1994 and ran a surprisingly strong bid against Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.).

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While he’s been out of politics since his presidential bid, Romney has stayed in the spotlight, especially for his criticism of President TrumpDonald TrumpFive takeaways from the Ohio special primaries Missouri Rep. Billy Long enters Senate GOP primary Trump-backed Mike Carey wins GOP primary in Ohio special election MORE, whom he called a “fraud” and a “phony” during the 2016 election. Trump fired back at Romney, repeatedly mocking him for losing in 2012.

But since then, Romney has warmed up to Trump, who endorsed the former governor's Senate bid and once considered him to serve as secretary of State.

Romney penned an op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune over the weekend saying he’ll still speak out against Trump when they disagree, but noted that there are areas of mutual agreement.

"If you elect me your senator, I will fight with vigor for the interests of our state and nation. I will endorse the president’s policies that support those interests. Hopefully, there will be few occasions where I will be compelled by conscience to criticize," Romney wrote.

"But, as I have said throughout this campaign, I will call them like I see them. Last week, the president said that I’m a straight shooter; I will endeavor to be just so.”

Despite serving as governor of Massachusetts and being born and raised in Michigan, Romney, a Mormon, has strong ties to Utah. He lived in the state before his gubernatorial bid and played a key role in running the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Romney will now square off against Salt Lake County Councilwoman (D) Jenny Wilson in the general election. Utah hasn’t elected a Democratic senator in almost five decades.