Shortly after a report surfaced that former White House strategist Steve Bannon was mulling an endorsement of Sen. Orrin Hatch to block Mitt Romney from entering the race, there comes news President Trump is thinking of doing the same.
Politico reports that Trump so dislikes Romney that he is pulling out all of the stops to convince Hatch to run for an eighth term in 2018. If Hatch decides to run, that means former GOP nominee Mitt Romney would likely not get in the race.
Romney has been preparing to run for Hatch’s seat on the long-held assumption that the 83-year-old would retire. Yet Hatch, the longest-serving Republican senator in history, is now refusing to rule out another campaign — a circumstance Romney’s infuriated inner circle blames squarely on the president. Their suspicions are warranted: Trump has sounded off to friends about how he doesn't like the idea of a Senator Romney.
The president’s mostly behind-the-scenes campaign to sway Hatch will burst into public view on Monday, when he arrives in Salt Lake City to hold a well-choreographed event designed to showcase his affection for the powerful Senate Finance Committee chairman.
The public display of affection isn’t just about blocking Romney, senior administration officials say. Trump has felt loyal to Hatch since the senator defended him in the wake of the “Access Hollywood” tape episode late in the 2016 campaign. Hatch stuck by Trump even as other members of Utah’s Republican delegation withdrew their support.
More recently, Hatch has played a key role in moving Trump's prized tax reform bill through the Senate.