Let’s just say it: Orrin Hatch is old, and it’s time for him to step away from the Senate and enjoy what’s left of his life.
The Utah Republican has served in the Senate for more than 40 years. That’s around half of his life. At 83 years old, I can only imagine the fights are a lot more taxing than they used to be, so it’s no wonder he tends to go with the flow – as dictated by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – at this point.
The rumor that has been making its way across social media for some time now is that former Massachusetts Governor and 2012 Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, is considering stepping up to run for Hatch’s seat, should he decide to retire.
News now is that the would-be kingmaker, Steve Bannon, is thinking of throwing his efforts behind Hatch, one of the so-called establishment that he loathes, in order to stop Romney.
“If Steve had a choice between Orrin Hatch and Mitt Romney, he would pick Hatch 10 times out of 10,” the source close to Bannon told the Washington Examiner.
Hatch, 83, has delayed any announcement on his midterm plans until after Congress clears tax reform legislation, which could happen this month. Hatch is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, the chamber’s tax writing panel, and does not want to diminish his negotiating leverage by revealing that he plans to retire, if that’s his intention.
Bannon views Romney as more problematic than Hatch. He (Romney) has been an outspoken critic of President Trump. He’s also popular enough in Utah (more popular than Trump, arguably), that he could probably walk away with the seat, should he decide to run.
But, Hatch advisors recently reached out to Bannon and spoke with the Breitbart News executive chairman about 2018, signaling the senator could be having second thoughts about retiring. In Utah, Bannon is willing to put aside his war with McConnell and embrace Hatch if it means blocking Romney, a traditional Republican who has the gravitas to rally considerable opposition to Trump from the Right.
He's 83 years old. It’s the Senate, not a retirement village.
Beyond Boyd Matheson, the former chief of staff to Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who recently announced he would not run for Senate, there have been few potential recruits in the Beehive State for Bannon to court. State Rep. Daniel McCay is one Republican who might fit the bill for Bannon, but it's unclear if he has the interest or political chops to take on Romney.
And without any other options, Bannon has found himself pressed to support this particular swamp creature.
Trump would prefer Hatch, as well. Hatch knows Trump’s triggers, and has praised him profusely, earning himself a spot of favor with the president.
Trump will be in Utah this week to talk about federal land policy, and to meet with Mormon church leaders.
The question at this point centers on if Trump will encourage Hatch to run for reelection in 2018, while there.
“When Sen. Hatch was campaigning with Donald Trump Jr., before the election, he said they definitely want to drain the swamp, but that they want to keep this guy,” said a source close to Hatch. “That’s been the vibe from Trump World because of how loyal he’s been, but also because he’s been an effective consigliere on taxes and judges and things like that.”
And that may very well be the case, but does Bannon have the kind of pull that goes over in a place like Utah, should Romney decide to run?
Drain the swamp, indeed.