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Mitt Romney Opens Up In Candid On-Stage Interview With Ann

Kelsie Moore / KUER

Mitt and Ann Romney sat down in front of about 600 supporters and state delegates Thursday evening for a “living room” style chat, moderated by former Utah broadcaster Ruth Todd.

Mitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential nominee, is seeking to replace retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch. He’s part of a crowded field of candidates — 11 other Republicans, including state Rep. Mike Kennedy, and four Democrats are seeking their respective party’s nomination.

Romney has come under fire from both side for his ties to Utah. “Utahns deserve a homegrown leader who reflects and is in touch with their experiences and their values,” Democratic frontrunner Jenny Wilson said when Romney entered the senate race in February.

Romney’s “living room” event gave him a chance to respond to those criticisms, but the conversation with his wife focused mostly on politics, their family and their LDS faith. Here are three highlights from the conversation:

1. Mitt Romney and President Trump go way back.

“I’ve known him for many years, well before our political experience,” Romney said. “I’ve actually had dinner at his breakfast table at Mar-A-Lago, back when it was his private residence,” he revealed, adding that Trump was still married to Marla Maples at the time and their daughter, Tiffany, was in a high chair.

2. Ann Romney wrote in her husband for president on her 2016 ballot.

Near the end of the event, audience members were able to ask questions. One questioner began by saying he wrote in Mitt Romney for president during the 2016 election. “So did Ann,” Mitt said with a laugh. “So I got two votes. Thank you.” The questioner asked about Romney’s scathing March 2016 speech about then-candidate Trump, in which Romney called the President a “phony” and a “fraud.”

“Would you give that same speech today? And if not, how would you change that speech,” the man asked. Romney said he wasn’t going to “look backward” on the speech, but said the president has moved on a number of issues, including a strict 45 percent tariff on all foreign goods. “I’m happy he didn’t do that. I think he made a wise choice instead to target particular countries or industries,” Romney said.

3. Ann was “instrumental” in convincing Mitt to run for U.S. Senate

“I always push Mitt into everything,” Ann said, noting that at her prodding, her husband agreed to come to Salt Lake City to take over the scandal-plagued organizing committee for Salt Lake City’s 2002 Olympic Winter Games. “That ended up being the best decision of our life,” she said.

“You just know what’s right, and I know this is right,” Ann said of Mitt’s Senate campaign. “It’s going to be good for Utah. It’s going to be good for us. We love this state.”

Nicole Nixon holds a Communication degree from the University of Utah. She has worked on and off in the KUER Newsroom since 2013, when she first joined KUER as an intern. Nicole is a Utah native. Besides public radio, she is also passionate about beautiful landscapes and breakfast burritos.
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