The retirement of Utah Republican Orrin Hatch after four decades in the Senate opens the door to a possible run by Mitt Romney, the two-time White House hopeful who's been a sharp critic of President Donald Trump. Three-quarters of Utahans said it was time for someone else to serve in the Senate, according to a poll late a year ago by the Hinckley Institute at the University of Utah. "And for me, that time is soon approaching", Hatch, a former amateur boxer, said in a video posted online. He said he's always been a fighter, "but every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves".
"After much prayer and discussion with family and friends, I've made a decision to retire at the end of this term", Hatch said. 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.
Utah is a great state for Romney and a bad one for Bannon, which means that the former White House chief strategist would be under little pressure.
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If he ran, Romney would enter the Senate race as the heavy favorite, having carried Utah in 2012 by a margin of almost 3-to-1 over Democrat Barack Obama. He is finishing up his seventh term in the upper chamber of Congress this year as the longest-serving Republican senator in history.
In the statement announcing his decision not to run again, Hatch cited work with the disadvantaged among his accomplishments, including helping create the Americans with Disabilities Act, expanding children's health insurance and expanding use of generic drugs.
An announcement from Senator Orrin G. Hatch.
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"The Utah Republican Party is quite conservative", said Phill Wright, a member of the state Republican central committee and a former party vice chairman. Romney would likely be among a small number of influential Republicans willing to take on Trump.
He is the longest-serving Republican in the Senate and chairs the powerful Senate Finance Committee, making him a major force in getting a tax overhaul approved in December.
Romney broke his silence on Facebook moments after Hatch's announcement, congratulating the retiring senator, listing his credentials and saying he and his wife wish them "all the best in their future endeavors".
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But as the president prodded Hatch to stay, voices in his home state were urging him to go.