Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch to retire; Romney could run

Sen. Orrin Hatch

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

At the time, Conway wouldn't say with certainty if Mr. Trump would support Romney in a potential Senate bid.

Their relationship has been complicated.

"Here's what I know".

Romney pilloried Trump in a March 2016 speech, calling him a "phony" and "a fraud".

After the election, Romney submitted himself as a candidate to be secretary of state in an excruciatingly public interview process. Over golf, Trump asked Sen. Trump eventually chose Rex Tillerson instead.

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The former MA governor called Mr Trump "a fraud" during last year's White House campaign.

The president has had Romney on his mind.

Last summer, he criticized Trump's notorious defense of the white supremacist groups that unleashed violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. "He has been a tremendous supporter, and I will never forget the (beyond kind) statements he has made about me as President", Trump tweeted Tuesday.

"Congratulations to Senator Orrin Hatch on an absolutely incredible career", Trump tweeted Tuesday evening.

Last month in Utah, Mr Trump called Mr Hatch "a true fighter" and said he hoped he would continue to serve "in the Senate for a very long time to come". But he reversed course and repeatedly insisted to reporters that he "intended" to seek re-election.

Hatch, 83, was first elected in 1976 and had spent months publicly deliberating about whether to stand again for reelection in November.

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"I've always been a fighter". Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah is all these things and, with his party in control of Congress and the White House, at the peak of his power.

Huckabee Sanders said it is premature to speculate as to whether Trump would campaign for the Republican candidate who will emerge in Utah. "Hatch and his over four decades of experience in the Senate", she said.

Hatch's move likely clears the way for Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, to run for the seat.

Hatch was popular in the state, and won with 65% of the vote in his 2012 re-election. Three-quarters of Utahans said it was time for someone else to serve in the Senate, according to a poll late previous year by the Hinckley Institute at the University of Utah. "Hatch more than anybody". "If he doesn't, the voters should end it for him".

Former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney thanked Hatch for his service in a statement posted to his Facebook page.

"He has been a senator from Utah longer than three-fifths of the state's population has been alive", the editorial board wrote.

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