CBSN

Mitt Romney "probably not too worried" after second place finish at Utah convention, reporter says

At the state Republican convention in Utah on Saturday, 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney came in second place for the Senate seat to a little-known local politican, Michael Kennedy. The two will face off in a primary on June 26, but Salt Lake Tribune senior managing editor Matt Canham told CBSN's "Red & Blue" that the former Massachusetts governor is "probably not too worried."

"I think the governor was prepared for this but the average primary Republican voter in Utah is a step to the middle from the convention and is probably well-known and more well financed candidate like Mitt Romney," Canham said. 

Utah's "unique" way of selection party candidates means there are two ways to get on the ballot. According to UtahPolicy.com, one option is to get the support of 60 percent of the 4,000 state convention delegations. A candidate can also guarantee a spot on the ballot by gathering enough signatures of supporters, which Romney did. In this case, there would be a primary anyway because Romney received 49 percent of the vote at the convention to Kennedy's 51 percent. 

As Canham noted, the delegates are the "far-right" of the Republican party, and Romney is "not the far-right's best, most-liked candidate." 

Kennedy, a doctor and state legislator from a more conservative part of the state,  "knows he's an underdog," Canham said. 

"He's not going to have the money, he definitely doesn't have the name ID," Canham said. "But this is his chance to really show he is a force in Utah politics, even if he doesn't win this race, it could set him up in the future ... . I think for him, it's the idea of being a principled conservative who can match Mitt Romney and go toe-to-toe. I guess you never know, but he knows he's the underdog in this primary."

Canham said the major issues in the race mirror many national issues: Immigration, financial security and health care. But there's also another big factor: President Trump, which Canham calls a "complicated issue" for Romney. During the 2016 campaign, Romney called Mr. Trump a "phony" and a "fraud," and then publicly said he would consider being nominated to be Secretary of State. Mr. Trump, meanwhile, endorsed Romney already.

"Mitt Romney gets asked about it where ever he goes because it is a little bit complicated," Canham said. "To have the president endorse him – it's a tense relationship between these two men and it will be something that stays over this race between now and the primary in June and the general election in November."