Following a day of voting at the Utah GOP convention, Mitt Romney - the former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential nominee - failed to garner the 60% of the votes that he needed to head to the November ballot unopposed. He must now compete in a June primary election as he seeks to replace retiring US Sen. Orrin Hatch.
As The Hill noted, when he made his bid official, Romney was considered a virtual lock for the GOP nomination and was not expected to face a serious primary challenger.
But, as CNN reports, after the initial round of votes, when none of the 12 candidates were able to cross that threshold, the party continued with successive rounds of caucus voting until one candidate reached 40%.
On the second round of voting, Utah state representative Mike Kennedy emerged in the lead with 50.88%. Romney came in a close second with 49.12%.
As a reminder, The Hill points out that in 2016, Romney made waves when he urged Republicans to oppose Trump. He called Trump a "fraud" who lacked the character to be president.
After Trump's election there was a brief thaw as the two dined publicly and Romney was floated as a potential secretary of State. But Romney was passed up for the post, which went to Rex Tillerson. Romney has since criticized the president over a number of issues, including his response to the violence in Charlottesville, Va.
Romney made more headlines earlier on Saturday when he said he was not ready to endorse Trump for reelection in 2020, telling CNN he would "make that decision down the road."
"As a person of political experience, if I endorse someone, I'll want to know what's in it for Utah and what help would he provide for us on key priorities in Utah."
But, after the convention vote, Romney again pointed out that he has, for the most part, agreed with President on policy.
"In terms of the President's policies, in this first year, we're pretty much on the same page," Romney said.
"He did not pursue the 45% tariff on all foreign goods that I think would have been problematic for the economy; but he has put in place a tax proposal that is going to get the economy going better; he's been a person who has de-regulated a good portion of the economy -- a good thing. And of course, he made a decision on Bear's Ears and the Grand Staircase that I think was the right decision."
And added that he was looking forward to a primary race.
"This is terrific for the people of Utah, and I really want to thank the delegates who stayed so late to give me the kind of boost that I got here today," Romney said, standing on the convention floor after the proceedings were adjourned. "We're going to have a good primary."
Romney and Kennedy will now compete in a primary set for June 26.