Mitt Romney delays Senate announcement after Florida school shooting

Mitt Romney in January.

Former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney says he’s postponing an announcement planned for Thursday about Utah’s Senate race because of the deadly school shooting in Florida.

People familiar with Romney’s plans tell The Associated Press that he is preparing a bid to replace retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch. Romney was expected to release a campaign video Thursday.

But Romney tweeted Wednesday night that, out of respect for the shooting victims and their families in Parkland, Florida, he will not make an announcement Thursday.

Romney, a former Massachusetts governor and one of the most famous Mormons, is expected to easily win the Senate seat in Utah, which is heavily Mormon.

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The 70-year-old Republican moved to Utah after losing the 2012 presidential election and is very popular in the state. He helped turn around the scandal-plagued 2002 Winter Olympics and has earned broad respect in the state.

In addition to his instant name recognition, Romney has a deep network of fundraisers and his own personal wealth to help carry him.

If he becomes Utah’s next senator, some supporters hope the vocal critic of President Donald Trump could serve as a political and moral counterweight to a president they see as divisive, erratic and undignified.

He does not address Trump directly in the announcement video, however. In fact, he plans to maintain a hyper-local focus on Utah voters during the campaign.

During the 2016 presidential election, Romney gave a scathing speech in which he called Trump ‘‘a phony’’ who is ‘‘playing the American public for suckers’’ and a man who was unfit to be president.

He softened his stance after Trump won the presidency and put himself forward as a candidate for secretary of state. But he resumed his criticism last year, calling out the president for blaming ‘‘both sides’’ following a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Trump, in turn, had criticized Romney for his failed presidential bids in 2008 and 2012, saying he ‘‘choked like a dog.’’

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Any efforts by Trump to block Romney are unlikely to resonate in Utah, where the president received a lukewarm reception from Mormons who were repelled by his brash demeanor and comments about women and minorities.

Romney isn’t expected to face any serious challenges for the seat. Even Utah’s conservatives who see him as too moderate and establishment for their liking admit they respect him and are unlikely to block him.