China hawks want Robert O’Brien to run for Romney’s Senate seat

With Sen. Mitt Romney’s retirement announcement this week, some hawkish conservatives on the Hill are rallying around a familiar name: Robert O’Brien.

Those who want Donald Trump’s former national security advisor to jump into a likely crowded primary to replace Romney argue that O’Brien’s national security background — particularly on the issue of China — would set him apart and make him a strong addition to the Senate. Importantly, there is no sign O’Brien is entertaining a bid right now.

“I am one of the Republicans encouraging him to run,” Rep. Mike Waltz (R-Fla.) told POLITICO on Thursday. “ Given his legal and foreign policy experience, I think he’d make a great senator for Utah.”

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), chair of the House China Select Committee, also said he’s recently spoken to O’Brien about the Utah Senate race following Romney’s announcement that he won’t seek reelection in 2024. Gallagher, another China hawk, said that O’Brien would be an “incredible leader on issues,” including U.S.-China competition.

Some believe O’Brien could have a good chance at getting Trump’s endorsement, though the former president has been far more careful in his Senate endorsements this cycle than during the 2022 campaign. So far, Trump has only backed Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), who is running unopposed in the GOP primary for an open Indiana Senate seat.