Sources: Romney expected to announce Senate bid next week, will gather signatures to get on the 2018 ballot

Sources close to Mitt Romney tell that the former GOP presidential nominee will announce next week that he is running for the U.S. Senate this year.

Romney will gather the 28,000 required signatures from registered GOP voters to ensure he gets on the late-June Republican Party primary ballot, assuming other Republicans will file to run for the office being vacated by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

It will only take Romney about three weeks to get the needed signatures, UtahPolicy is being told. That’s plenty of time before the April deadline to hand those signatures into local election officials to verify their validity.

(Signature-gathering candidates can hand signature packets in early, and get verified well before the deadline, in any case.)

It will cost Romney around $200,000 to hire a signature-gathering firm. Financial peanuts for the man who still has $6 million left over from his 2012 presidential race and can raise huge sums of money in a Utah Senate race.

It is unclear whether Romney will also take the SB54-allowed route of going to the state Republican convention, which will be held in May.

Party leaders want Romney to do so, as it will ensure a great turnout of the 4,500 or so delegates (to be picked in mid-March neighborhood caucuses).

Even national media coverage of the event, if Romney attends.

However, UtahPolicy is told that Romney is being warned that a state convention appearance could mean some out-of-state, D.C., far-right groups attempting to influence the delegates to vote against the 2012 Republican presidential nominee.

Romney is taking the signature route for one clear reason: The possibility (although remote) that he could be eliminated in the state GOP convention if he only went the caucus/delegate/convention route – like the late-Sen. Bob Bennett was in 2010.

Utah GOP state delegates are notoriously more conservative that rank-and-file GOP voters.

GOP Gov. Gary Herbert, who has approval ratings in the mid-to-high 60’s, took the signature AND convention route in 2016, only to see himself finish second in the convention.

A bit of an embarrassment considering he crushed the leading delegate vote-getter, Jonathan Johnson, in the primary election.

Romney held a strategy meeting earlier this week at his Holladay mansion to discuss policy for his upcoming race for Senate. Boyd Matheson, who confirmed attending the meeting to, would only say that he discussed policy with Romney, not political strategy.

Romney remains extremely popular in Utah, polling by Dan Jones & Associates finds.

He carried the state easily in 2012, eight years after Romney rescued the 2002 Utah Winter Olympics from scandal and financial troubles by taking over the Salt Lake Organizing Committee’s top job.

Romney’s Utah campaign will be run by folks that helped his 2012 presidential race, UtahPolicy is being told.