Ravell Call, Deseret News
FILE - Mitt Romney answers a question during the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 19, 2018. Mitt Romney plans to launch his U.S. Senate campaign as early as next week, a source told the Deseret News Thursday.

SALT LAKE CITY — Mitt Romney plans to launch his U.S. Senate campaign as early as next week, a source told the Deseret News Thursday.

The former Republican presidential nominee also intends to gather signatures to ensure a spot on a possible primary election ballot. But he also could attend the GOP nominating convention in May.

Romney’s inner circle is in town discussing policy, working through strategy and organizing a campaign, according to the source.

Speculation that Romney, who now lives in Holladay, would jump into the 2018 race has amped up since Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, announced his retirement after his term expires next January.

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Romney spoke at two business conferences in Salt Lake City last week but declined to say whether he was running.

Romney has remained extremely popular in Utah since taking over the embattled Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Winter Games nearly two decades ago. He easily won the state in the 2012 presidential election. He ran a failed campaign for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts in 1994.

Democratic Salt Lake County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson has been campaigning for Hatch’s seat since last summer. Democrat Mitchell Vice and Libertarian Craig Bowden are also running.