Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Associated Press
So, who was the big winner in the Massachusetts Senate race?
Well, the Democrat-dominated state does have a new GOP senator, Scott Brown. But former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, described as the hidden hand in the improbable victory, also scored.
"Romney is clearly the most influential national Republican right now. He's filled the void," said longtime supporter Kirk Jowers, director of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics.
Known by Utahns for leading the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and for being a strong Mormon presidential candidate in 2008, Romney worked hard for Brown behind the scenes.
From the start, Romney backed Brown to be the successor to the late Edward M. Kennedy, the legendary Democrat who held the Senate seat for nearly half a century. Romney helped the Brown campaign raise money, including more than $1 million in a single day by e-mailing his own supporters nationwide.
And many of the same faces that accompanied Romney on the presidential campaign trail jumped on board the Brown bandwagon, including Romney's campaign manager, Beth Myers, and spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, as well as others from Romney's days as Massachusetts governor.
"Mitt Romney's early support was crucial. He was there with fundraising help and advice when no one else was willing to give Scott Brown a second look," Fehrnstrom told the Deseret News.
Romney's "Free and Strong America" political action committee donated $9,000, Fehrnstrom said. Romney also hosted two fundraisers in October, mailed his national donor list on Brown's behalf and "loaned his entire political team to the short-duration campaign."
It apparently made the difference. Fehrnstrom said, "On Dec. 29, Mitt sent a fundraising e-mail whose subject line was, 'Something's brewing in Massachusetts.' He was right!"
Romney remains popular in Utah, where he received an unprecedented 90 percent of the vote in the state's 2008 Republican presidential primary before dropping out of the race.
Now, his participation in Brown's upset could boost his chances of winning over enough Republicans around the country to secure the GOP nomination in 2012, should he bid again for the White House.
Just days before Brown's surprise win over Democrat Martha Coakley, The Daily Beast blogger Samuel P. Jacobs wrote that Romney's "hidden hand" in the Brown race was being overlooked.
A Brown win, Jacobs said, "would also be a big boost for Romney's 2012 presidential campaign. Up against a populist wave on the right that favors candidates like Sarah Palin, Romney can improve his appeal and influence by gaining the loyalty of newly elected officials."
Or, as Jowers said, "it never hurts to have many senators and representatives who feel like they owe you something." For Brown, whose election took away the Democrats' filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, that means backing a Romney presidential bid, Jowers said.
"Romney was essentially a one-stop shop for him to get everything he needed to run a credible campaign," Jowers said. "I assume he'll be one of the senators for Romney if he runs again."
One of the Utah lawmakers who backed Romney in the last presidential election, House Majority Leader Kevin Garn, R-Layton, said Romney is building new momentum toward 2012.
"Yesterday, the country changed directions, and Mitt was a part of that," Garn said Wednesday. "It gives him credibility and visibility."
But Utah GOP Chairman Dave Hansen said it's too early to predict just how much Tuesday's win in Massachusetts can help Romney in the future.
"It certainly can't hurt him," Hansen said. "I'm sure that Scott Brown, who is the new rock star of the Republican Party, is going to be giving plenty of accolades to Romney."
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