Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, 83, announced Tuesday that he would not be running for re-election in 2018. The announcement was a blow for President Trump, who in December said he hoped Hatch would continue to serve in the Senate “for a very long time.”
Hatch has been a member of Congress since 1977, making him the longest-serving Republican Senator of all time. Hatch held the title of “president pro tempore,” meaning he was third in line for the presidency behind Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Hatch was a strong supporter of Trump’s agenda. As Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, he played a key role in helping the GOP pass its promised tax reform bill.
Expected to run for Hatch’s seat is Mitt Romney, a Trump critic who ran on the GOP ticket during the 2012 presidential election. If Romney wins, his presence in the Senate could further complicate Trump’s already tenuous relationship with Republicans on Capitol Hill.
“Make no mistake about it: Mitt Romney is going to speak his mind if he thinks the president is saying or doing something silly,” says former Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R).
Romney is widely expected to make a run for Hatch’s seat, but he has yet to make an official announcement.
Just hours after Hatch announced his retirement, Romney changed the location on his Twitter account from Massachusetts to Utah. He was already registered to vote in Utah.
As a Republican and practicing Mormon, Romney enjoys widespread support in Utah. He also has the support of a powerful donor network should he choose to launch a political campaign.
Among those rooting for Romney is Evan McMullin, a former CIA agent who ran as an Independent in the 2016 presidential election. “We must have a leader prepared to meet the challenges of our day and our future. I hope that leader will be Mitt Romney.”
Editor’s note: Despite some friction between Romney and Trump, Romney’s niece, Ronna, who is now head of the RNC has said that Mitt has “every interest” in working with Trump.