Trump backs Sen. Hatch for eighth term in bid to block Romney

President Donald Trump stands with Sen. Orrin Hatch R-Utah after arriving at Salt Lake City International Airport Monday Dec. 4 2017 in Salt Lake City

President Donald Trump on Monday said he supports Utah Senator Orrin Hatch running for re-election next year, as speculation mounts that fellow Republican and frequent Trump critic Mitt Romney hopes to take the seat.

The former MA governor was reportedly seriously considering running for Senate in his new home state of Utah, under the condition that the state's longtime senator, Orrin Hatch, decided not to run for re-election in 2018.

Hatch has not publicly declared his plans.

Romney has been preparing to run for Hatch's seat on the long-held assumption that the 83-year-old would retire, according to Politico.

Romney has reportedly been mulling a Senate bid in Utah for some time, taking steps after the new year and last summer to up his presence in the Utah political scene. "I don't know that he knows what he's going to get with Romney, but it's not going to be what he's got with Hatch", Jowers reportedly said. At the time, Hatch told Trump that he hadn't yet made up his mind.

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Trump will travel to Salt Lake City, Utah, Monday for official business, to meet with leaders of the Church of Latter Day Saints and give a speech at the state capitol, which Politico suggests is a political move to encourage Hatch to stay in the Senate. Either way, Trump-not to mention his former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who is allegedly considering a Hatch endorsement-may not have much of a choice in the matter.

Hatch joined Trump on a visit Monday to Salt Lake City. Trump previously said he is doing it for Hatch. "Let's continue MAKING AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!" the president replied on Twitter.

Romney softened his opposition before the election, however, and was briefly considered to serve as Trump's secretary of state. "Morally different universes", Romney tweeted, following up with a Facebook post urging Trump to "act now for the good of the country".

Trump called Hatch in October to and requested he run again, sources familiar with the call told Politico.

In August, after Trump said there was blame on both sides for violence stemming from a rally of white supremacists and Nazi sympathizers in Charlottesville, West Virginia, Romney said the president needed to apologize.

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