Despite reported pleas from President Trump to seek re-election, a longtime Republican senator has decided to pack it in. Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, who has served since 1977, announced on Tuesday that he will retire once his seventh term ends.
Hatch, 83, delivered the video announcement on Twitter, thanking everyone for their support over the years. He leaves an open Senate seat, and many believe that two-time presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney will seek to fill it.
Orrin Hatch Retires After 40 Years
After celebrating his 40th year in the U.S. Senate, Hatch will be leaving Washington on a high note.
He has an approval rating of 83 percent in his home state, and Hatch’s campaign coffers total approximately $5 million.
He said in his announcement:
Every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves. For me, that time is soon approaching. That’s why after much prayer and discussion with family and friends, I’ve decided to retire at the end of this term.
What finally convinced Hatch to retire after all these years? Elaine, his wife of 60 years, and their six children, according to GOP sources.
Although the Republican brass has urged Hatch to retire for years, President Trump attempted to get the longest-serving Republican senator to change his mind during a meeting aboard Air Force One.
According to an in-depth report by Politico, the president told Hatch that there isn’t anyone else who could do the job like him. Hatch was ostensibly open to the idea of seeking re-election, and Trump made it clear that he hoped the senator would reconsider.
Following some back and forth, Hatch concluded that it was time for him to leave. But who could take his place?
— Orrin Hatch (@OrrinHatch) January 3, 2018
Will Mitt Romney Succeed Orrin Hatch?
Hatch will likely name a successor prior to exiting politics. He has repeatedly said in interviews that he wanted Romney to replace him, but it is unclear if this would transpire in today’s environment.
It is no secret that Romney has tried to remain relevant on the political scene over the last two years. He has been in communication with top Utah donors and has frequently attended high-profile Republican fundraisers.
Of course, if Romney were chosen by Hatch as his successor, it would create a tremendous amount of friction with President Trump.
During the 2016 election, Romney warned GOP voters about the dangers of a potential Trump presidency. He may have abandoned these warnings after he met with Trump about a Secretary of State vacancy, which eventually went to Rex Tillerson.
Trump responded by claiming that Romney begged him for his endorsement in 2012. He told a Maine crowd in March 2016:
I backed Mitt Romney. He was begging for my endorsement. I could have said, “Mitt, drop to your knees.” He would’ve dropped to his knees.
No matter what the president thinks, it is apparent that Romney is the consensus candidate.
The National Review published a glowing op-ed pertaining to Romney:
No doubt, Mitt Romney has all of the skills and intellect to make a great senator. He knows the issues in great detail, studies them, analyzes them – it’s what he’s done professionally his entire life. He’s got deep-rooted principles but aims to be pragmatic and to reach the best compromise possible. His passions never get the best of him, he’s calm, polite, respectful but direct. His humor is G-rated, and when he does mock, he makes fun of himself.
But Romney isn’t a guaranteed bet.
Former presidential candidate Evan McMullin, who was also a never-Trumper, is reportedly also eyeing the Utah Senate seat, though he has encouraged Romney to run.
Senator Romney would most likely generate headlines on a daily basis.
A contentious relationship with the president, a different vision on foreign policy, and a fiscally conservative platform, the media would appreciate some good old-fashioned Republican in-fighting.
Will Romney give it to them?