Situational awareness – January 3, 2018

Good Wednesday morning from Salt Lake City. I’m back from Southern California where I witnessed in person one of the most exciting Rose Bowl games ever played. Unfortunately, my beloved Oklahoma Sooners did not prevail, but the game was incredible. 

Here’s what’s on tap for today:

As we’ve been reporting for months, Sen. Orrin Hatch has decided to call it a career after 42 years and Mitt Romney appears ready to run for his seat. Hatch accomplished a lot during his storied career that spanned parts of five decades.

If Romney gets into the race, it’s pretty much game over for any other candidate. Remember, Romney got 90% of the vote in the 2012 Utah GOP primary, and he won the state that year with nearly 73% of the vote.

It looks like Romney is getting ready to throw his hat in the ring. Within hours of Hatch’s announcement, Romney changed the location on his Twitter account from Massachusetts to Utah. Utah Democrats are already trying to paint Romney as a carpetbagger, but they’re probably going to have to do better than that. Romney has a 69% approval rating in Utah according to our polling, and he would thrash Democratic frontrunner Jenny Wilson in a head-to-head matchup.

Tick Tock:

  • 19 days until the opening day of the 2018 Utah Legislature (1/22/2018)
  • 64 days until the final day of the 2018 Utah Legislature (3/8/2018)
  • 65 days until the filing period for candidates in the 2018 election opens (3/9/2018)
  • 71 days until the filing deadline for the 2018 elections (3/15/2018)
  • 76 days until the statewide caucus meetings for Utah Republicans and Democrats (3/20/2018)
  • 108 days until the Utah GOP State Convention (4/21/2018)
  • 115 days until the Utah Democratic State Convention (4/28/2018)
  • 174 days until the 2018 Primary Election (6/26/2018)
  • 307 days until the 2018 midterm elections (11/6/2018)
  • 1,035 days until the 2020 presidential election (11/3/2020)

Utah news highlights

Sen. Orrin Hatch decides to call it a career after 42 years

The longest-serving Republican Senator in history announced on Tuesday he would retire at the end of the current term, his seventh. Hatch’s announcement opens the door for Mitt Romney to launch a Senate bid next year [Utah Policy]. President Donald Trump called Romney last month to discuss his interest in running for Hatch’s seat if he should retire, but Romney’s camp thinks Trump was trying to find out what Romney’s plan was so he could thwart it [Politico].

LDS Church President Thomas Monson died Tuesday night

The 16th president of the LDS Church was 90 years old [Deseret News, Tribune]. Russell Nelson is poised to become the next Mormon prophet following Monson’s passing [Tribune].

Nearly 3/4ths of Utahns say they think there will be a “major” terrorist attack in the United States during the coming year

Even though there hasn’t been a big terrorist incident in the U.S. since the horrific 9/11 attacks, 72% of Utahns say they think it’s likely there will be a “major” attack in the country during the next year [Utah Policy].

Don’t expect Mitt Romney to join the anti-Trump resistance if he is elected to the Senate next year

Romney has been a fierce critic of President Trump, and Trump reportedly wanted Orrin Hatch to run again to keep Romney out of the Senate race, but LaVarr Webb argues Romney will get along just fine with Trump if he wins the Utah Senate race in 2018 [Utah Policy].

Other Utah headlines

  • The newest members of the Salt Lake County Council were sworn in on Tuesday. The new members make the council the youngest, and gayest, in history [Deseret News, Tribune].
  • Tanner Ainge is running for the Utah County Commission seat currently held by embattled Commissioner Greg Graves [Daily Herald].
  • Rep. Justin Fawson wants to take away the Utah Board of Regents’ power to hire and fire college and university presidents [Tribune].
  • Crime rates in Salt Lake City have been dropping steadily since 2015 [Tribune].

National headlines

  • President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Tuesday evening to taunt North Korea over the size and reliability of their nuclear arsenal. “I too have a Nuclear Button, but it’s a much bigger & more powerful one,” said Trump in response to Kim Jong Un’s declaration that he has a nuclear button on his desk [New York Times].
  • The Iranian government is holding pro-government rallies after days of unrest have rocked the country. At least 21 people have been killed in the protests [New York Times].
  • As Congress returns to Washington, the big fight will be a long-term measure to fund the government. Democrats want a legislative fix for the DACA program in order for them to vote for any plan, but President Trump wants to include funding for his proposed border wall and other immigration measures [Politico].
  • President Donald Trump also threatened to cut off U.S. aid to the Palestinian territories unless peace talks with Israel resumed [CNN].
  • Former Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann is said to be considering a run for the Senate seat left open by Sen. Al Franken’s resignation [CNN].
  • President Trump tweeted Tuesday night that he will be presenting “dishonest and corrupt media awards” on Monday evening [Politico].
  • ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan ripped so-called “sanctuary cities” and called for the Department of Justice to charge the politicians in charge of them with crimes [The Hill].
  • Several hundred of the top employees at the NSA have left to take higher-paying jobs in the private sector since 2015 [Washington Post].
  • A “bomb cyclone” is slamming the east coast with snow and frigid temperatures. Following that, the polar vortex will freeze the area even further [Washington Post].
  • You didn’t get lucky. Nobody won the $361 million Mega Millions drawing, which will push the next jackpot to $418 million [CNN Money].

On this day in history

  • 1749 – Benning Wentworth issues the first of the New Hampshire Grants, leading to the establishment of Vermont.
  • 1777 – General George Washington defeats British General Lord Cornwallis at the Battle of Princeton.
  • 1861 – Delaware votes not to secede from the United States.
  • 1925 – Benito Mussolini announces he is taking dictatorial powers over Italy.
  • 1933 – Minnie Craig becomes the first woman elected as Speaker of the North Dakota House of Representatives. She is the first woman to hold a Speaker position anywhere in the United States.
  • 1947 – The proceedings of Congress are televised for the first time.
  • 1953 – Frances Bolton and her son, Oliver, become the first mother and son to serve simultaneously in Congress.
  • 1959 – Alaska is admitted as the 49th state.
  • 1961 – The U.S. severed diplomatic relations with Cuba after Fidel Castro announced he was a communist.