What does Mitt Romney do now?
Multiple reports over the weekend suggested President Donald Trump and his allies were angling to convince Sen. Orrin Hatch to run for another term in 2018 with the specific intent of keeping Romney out of the race.
Multiple sources who spoke to UtahPolicy.com on the condition of anonymity say that there was a tentative deal in place for Hatch to step aside in favor of Romney in 2018. In fact, earlier this year Hatch said he would be willing to step aside and not run for another term if an "outstanding person" like Romney were to step forward.
Seemingly, that's all changed, and Hatch appears to be leaning toward running again instead of retiring.
UtahPolicy.com first reported that Hatch was going to announce his retirement in August or September of this year. Then the possible announcement slipped to October, and now it's a nebulous 'end of the year," when the seven-term Senator will decide on his political future.
That leaves Romney twisting in the wind.
Romney is reportedly becoming impatient with Hatch's indecisiveness.
It's possible that frustration could boil over into anger if Hatch does not step aside as Romney is clearly expecting him to do. Romney doesn't want to disrespect Hatch by appearing to force him to the sidelines, but time is growing short for Romney if he wants to launch a campaign for Senate next year, which seems to be the case.
Several well-placed Republicans say Romney is inclined to sit back and "play it nice" for a while, giving Hatch an opportunity to decide on his own without any pressure.
But, if Hatch waits too long, or announces he's running for another term, there are other wheels in motion.
Expect to see some prominent Utahns who had supported Hatch in the past to start to publicly push the Senator toward retirement. Romney supporters say they also plan to release polling showing the former GOP presidential nominee would easily win a primary matchup against Hatch. They hope those two data points would push Hatch to gracefully bow out of the race instead of face the possible indignity of defeat as his final exit from the political arena.
Hatch is also reportedly getting pressure from the University of Utah over the new Hatch Foundation. The school is raising money for the foundation, but that may be put on hold if Hatch decides to run for another term.
Several Republicans are whispering that if Republican Roy Moore wins the open Senate seat in Alabama, that might be the final push Romney needs to jump into the race. Romney has been extremely critical of Moore, who has been accused of pursuing relationships with underage and teenaged girls while he was in his 30's.
On Monday, Hatch defended President Trump's endorsement of Moore saying the president had no choice but to endorse the Republican in that race. Romney said on Twitter a win by Moore would be "a stain" on the Senate.