SALT LAKE CITY — The elephant in the room remained after prospective Republican Senate candidate Mitt Romney spoke to a full house at the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit on Friday.
"There'll be no announcements today," the 2012 GOP presidential nominee said in response to a "hypothetical" question from Vivint Smart Home President Alex Dunn, Romney's former chief of staff as governor of Massachusetts.
Romney cited the LDS Church naming a new president this week, a gasoline truck fire Thursday night on I-15, and Friday — "of course you only put out bad news on Fridays" — as reasons for not making a "critical" announcement.
Romney is widely expected to jump into the race for the seat held by retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. He did not take questions from the media after his speech at the Salt Palace Convention Center before about 14,000 tech summit attendees.
Sitting in white chairs on a stage flanked by large high-tech video screens, Romney and Dunn held what amounted to a fireside chat, touching on the potential candidate's business ventures, politics and family.
Romney said he's optimistic about America's future, lauding the GOP tax plan and business deregulation, which he said would help start and grow American enterprises.
"I think our economy is going to continue to do well," he said. "At some point there will be some event that causes a spiral and a recession. I don't know when it will happen. It's conceivable it won't happen for years and years."
Romney said one of his and the Republican Party's "great failings" is they don't make the connection as to why they care so much about business development. He said it's not so rich people can make more money.
"The wealthy people are doing fine. What we care about is how do you get wages up for the average American," he said, adding higher pay comes from growing companies to create competition for workers.
America is the innovator of the world, and "as long as government gets out of the way and Uncle Sam doesn't come in and mess things up, America can win. And America winning is the key to liberty on this planet," he said.
Romney also talked about being a GOP governor in Democrat-dominated Massachusetts.
"If you want to get something done, you have to recognize that not everybody agrees with you, he said.
He recalled former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt telling him that having an opposition party isn't necessarily bad for getting things done, "and I agree."
After delving into his work turning around failing companies at Bain Capital, Dunn asked Romney if he were scared of failing along the way.
"You all may not know this, but I actually ran for president and lost," Romney quipped. "So the fear of failing was actually realized."
Romney said he was "terrified" of losing people's money at Bain. Likewise, he said he was "very, very concerned" that when he took over the Salt Lake Olympic Committee that he would let down the people of Utah and the country, as well as the athletes.
"It's thrilling to be in a setting where you know you could fail or fall, but it's part of life. It's exciting. It's life in the fullest sense," he said.
Dunn also asked Romney about how he and his wife, Ann, have dealt with her multiple sclerosis.
Romney said he told her while waiting for the diagnosis at the doctor's office that they could handle whatever it was as long as it wasn't terminal.
"When she was diagnosed with MS, we both hugged each other and cried in sadness but also in happiness that it wasn't something that would take us apart so early in our marriage," he said.
Over the years, he said, they have battled through the disease.
"Every day, I thank my Heavenly Father that she's still here and the she's well, well as can be, and I feel like a blessed person," Romney said.
As he finished talking about his wife, a man in the crowd yelled, "Mitt for president!" to loud applause.
"I tried that — twice," Romney replied.
"Third time would have been a charm," came the reply from someone in the audience.