Sen. Orrin Hatch Announces Retirement, Possibly Clearing Way for Mitt Romney

Orrin Hatch

CREDIT Manuel Balce Ceneta AP REX Shutterstock

I was an amateur boxer in my youth, and I brought that fighting spirit with me to Washington.

"Every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves".

But as it became clear that Romney would likely run if Hatch bowed out, Matheson withdrew from contention - an acknowledgment that the 2012 Republican presidential nominee is wildly popular in Utah and would have little trouble securing the seat.

His retirement raises speculation that Mitt Romney, the former governor of MA with deep roots in Utah, will seek the seat. He's the longest-serving Republican senator in USA history.

That is in part because Mr. Hatch had privately told Mr. Romney he was not sure he was ready to leave a seat he has held since 1977 and White House officials did all they could to nudge him into another campaign.

As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Hatch played a pivotal role in passage of a massive tax reform bill last month.

Romney repeatedly assailed the president during the 2016 campaign, calling Trump "a fraud", and Trump returned the favor, stating that Romney "choked like a dog" in the 2012 race.

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Romney's statement did not mention his own plans.

The 83-year-old has been publicly weighing whether or not to step down.

. The dispute occurred as Republicans pushed a near $1.5 trillion, 10-year tax cut for businesses and individuals through the Senate Finance Committee over Democrats' objections.

The longest-serving Senate Republican with seven terms under his belt, he was first elected in 1976. Last month, Trump flew with Hatch on Air Force One to Utah for a day of events that was aimed entirely at lobbying the senator to run again.

"The Utah Republican Party is quite conservative", said Phill Wright, a member of the state Republican central committee and a former party vice chairman.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Hatch's leadership will be greatly missed. Should they decide to run, their presence might be a welcome bit of nostalgia to GOP voters tired by Trump's presidency; but they could also provide an unwelcome flashback.

Jenny Wilson, a Salt Lake City city councilwoman who's seeking the Democratic nomination, said in statement that Hatch made "the right decision for Utah" and that she would stay in the race.

Hatch frequently wrote religious songs and recorded music in his spare time as a way to relax from the stresses of life in Washington.

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