Hatch to retire from the Senate, clearing the way for Romney to jump in the race

Sen. Orrin Hatch

Sen. Orrin Hatch announced Tuesday that he was not going to seek another term in the U.S. Senate in 2018, ending months of speculation about his political future.

Hatch emailed a video statement on Tuesday afternoon, announcing that he would retire at the end of his current term, his seventh.

“I’ve decided to retire at the end of this term. Although I will miss serving you in the Senate, I look forward to spending more time with family, especially my sweet wife Elaine, whose unwavering love and support made all of this possible,” said Hatch in an email statement. “I’m deeply grateful for the privilege you’ve given me to serve as your Senator these last four decades. I may be leaving the Senate, but the next chapter in my public service is just beginning.”

Hatch had promised in 2012 that he would not run for another term in 2018, but started making noise that he was considering another run this year, mostly at the urging of President Donald Trump.

Hatch’s exit from the race leaves an opening for Mitt Romney to jump in, as had been widely expected. Those close to Romney have said he is preparing for a Senate campaign in 2018 if Hatch retires.

Polls had shown that 3/4ths of Utahns would prefer that Hatch not run again in 2018, but a UtahPolicy.com survey from late 2017 found that Hatch would win an election matchup with Democrat Jenny Wilson if he were able to secure the GOP nomination this year. However, that same survey found that Romney would crush Wilson by 50 points.

Hatch’s team may have tipped their hand over the weekend when the website for the Hatch Foundation went live. Hatch’s supporters have been quietly raising money for Hatch’s foundation since last year, which would be a key part of his post-office plans.