Veteran lawmaker Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) announced on Tuesday that he will retire at the end of his current term later this year, potentially paving the way for failed presidential nominee Mitt Romney to return to the national spotlight and fill his seat.
In a video announcement breaking news of his imminent departure from the Senate, Hatch gave a nod to President Donald Trump, whose agenda he has strongly supported and who encouraged Hatch, 83, to run for another term.
“When the president visited Utah last month, he said I was a fighter,” Hatch said. “I’ve always been a fighter. I was an amateur boxer in my youth, and I’ve brought the fighting spirit with me to Washington. But every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves. And for me, that time is soon approaching.”
Hatch has been a fixture of the Senate for the last four decades, but recent polling numbers indicated that Utahans were ready for a change, with a whopping 75 percent of voters suggested last fall that it was time to step down.
Political pundits are already forecasting a Senate run for Romney, who mounted an unsuccessful challenge to former President Barack Obama in 2012 and previously served as the governor of Massachusetts.
Romney took to Facebook to post a statement that praised Hatch’s distinguished career – but made no mention of any plans to run.
“As Chairman of the Senate Finance and Judiciary Committees and as the longest-serving Republican Senator in U.S. history, Senator Hatch has represented the interests of Utah with distinction and honor,” he said.
Whether or not he plans to run could be made clear by the end of the month, a source close to the Romney camp told the New York Times. His election to the Senate could prove a thorn in the side of the Trump administration, as Romney emerged as a vocal opponent of Trump during the campaign and has spoken out on several issues since.