Former Vice President Joe Biden has encouraged onetime GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney to run for the Senate in Utah if longtime Republican incumbent Orrin Hatch decides to retire next year.
Biden made the recommendation to Romney Friday evening at the Utah resort where Romney was hosting an annual invitation-only business and politics summit.
The Biden-Romney event, like most of the discussions and speeches at the gathering, was closed to reporters. But people who were there confirmed the conversation and described it as a warm, bipartisan talk.
Romney did not give any indication he was considering a run, should Hatch, 83, decide not to run again next year, said one person in attendance, Maryland videographer Dean Dykema.
“Mitt didn’t have a chance to ask many questions because Joe pretty much took over the show,” Dykema said.
Hatch, who has been in office since 1977, has said he hasn’t decided if he’ll seek another term but he might step aside if Romney ran.
The 70-year-old former Massachusetts governor now lives in Utah, where he’s remained popular as the man who led a turnaround of the scandal-plagued 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics and as a prominent Mormon businessman and politician in a state that’s home to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In April, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he reached out to Romney about running for Hatch’s seat, but said he’d support the longtime senator if he decided to run again.
Hatch has said that he hopes everyone in Utah could get behind Romney and avoid a divisive primary contest like the one in 2010 that ousted his close friend, the late Utah Republican Sen. Robert Bennett. Bennett was defeated by a tea party-backed Republican, Mike Lee.
On Friday in Utah, Romney and Biden did not discuss the 2012 election where they ran on opposing tickets, but Biden did discuss the 2016 election.
He made some comments critical of President Donald Trump, but said he felt his own party and its candidate Hillary Clinton failed to connect with some key voting blocs, including millennials and those in working-class states where Biden was sent as a surrogate for the campaign.
Biden also discussed a need for bipartisanship in Congress, lamenting how Republicans and Democrats don’t sit together anymore in the Capitol dining room, and spoke of his efforts to improve cancer research, a cause he has focused on since his son, former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, died in 2015 of brain cancer.