Utah's Orrin Hatch announces he will retire from the Senate

Orrin Hatch

Utah Senator Orrin Hatch has announced he will resign, and Mr Romney has reportedly been telling associates he hopes to run for the seat.

A spokeswoman for Romney didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on Hatch's retirement announcement, and it is unclear if he is interested in succeeding the elder statesman in the upper chamber. Last month, Mr. Trump flew with Mr. Hatch on Air Force One to Utah for a day of events that was aimed entirely at lobbying the senator to run again. He said he's always been a fighter, "but every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves".

Hatch said, "I may be leaving the Senate, but the next chapter in my public service is just beginning".

Hatch said he made a decision to retire at the end of his seventh term after "much prayer and discussion with family and friends" over the holiday break.

He also has drawn the ire of Trump's former White House adviser, Steve Bannon, who recently derided Romney as a draft dodger who "hid behind" his Mormon religion to avoid serving in the Vietnam War.

In his announcement, Hatch mentioned Trump, who urged him to run for reelection in December.

Mr. Hatch's decision clears the way for the political resurrection of Mr. Romney, the former MA governor and 2012 Republican presidential nominee who is now a Utah resident and is popular in the Mormon-heavy state.

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Mitt Romney, former MA governor and GOP presidential nominee, is expected to run for Hatch's seat.

In the statement announcing his decision to retire, Hatch cited work helping create the Americans with Disabilities Act, expanding children's health insurance and expanding use of generic drugs.

Hatch is the second-longest serving current USA senator, serving for more than 40 years.

Mr. Romney was unaware of Mr. Hatch's decision and of late had been operating under the assumption that the senator would run again, not even bringing up the possibility of a campaign while skiing Monday with friends in Utah.

"The Utah Republican Party is quite conservative", said Phill Wright, a member of the state Republican central committee and a former party vice chairman. Asked if he thought Romney would be interested in coming to Washington during the Trump era, Trump replied, "I don't know".

In 2000, Hatch sought the Republican nomination for president, saying he had more experience in Washington than his opponents and insisting he could work with Democrats.

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