So Pres. Trump is coming to town on Monday to talk about national monuments. But I’m going to be listening just as carefully to what he says about another “national monument” – Orrin Hatch.
I won’t be at all surprised if Trump, after downsizing the monuments, pauses, and then tells Utahns: “You gotta re-elect Fabulous Orrin next year. He’s HUUUGE! Together, we’re going to make America great again! So sad if you don’t send him back for another term. Me and Orrin, we’re gonna win so much you’ll get sick of winning!”
Of course, Hatch will be by Trump’s side at every moment he’s in Utah. And he would clearly love such a presidential endorsement. It will give him more cover, more reason, to seek re-election instead of retiring. Hatch is welcoming every bit of encouragement to run.
How can he turn down his president? How can he walk away from this historic opportunity – this obligation! – to solve big problems and renew the country?
I have been saying for months that Hatch will retire, and I firmly believe that he was inclined to do so, however reluctantly. But the little devil on his shoulder is whispering – shouting -- that he’s Mr. Indispensable. And being the focal point of historic, once-in-a-generation tax reform confirms that sentiment. He’s too big to retire, too important.
December is upon us -- the month Hatch watchers have said he will announce his plans. Will he? Or will he keep postponing?
Meanwhile, every day that goes by is another day Mitt Romney twists uncomfortably in the winter wind. Clearly, some sort of expectation existed that Hatch would retire and Romney would run. Reports are that Romney is becoming impatient.
Would Romney take on Hatch? I don’t know, but he might be more inclined to do so if he felt Hatch reneged on an assumed deal, spoken or unspoken.
At this late date, Romney is really the only Republican other than Hatch with enough name ID and financial capability to put together a statewide campaign, given the 2018 electoral calendar.
Could Romney defeat Hatch? Probably. It would be fun to watch.
So, if Hatch seeks re-election, can he win? Great question. His polling numbers are unhealthy. Most Utahns don’t want him to seek re-election. Conventional wisdom has been that he could readily be defeated.
But I think if Hatch runs the only candidate on the horizon who can beat him is Romney. I think Hatch would defeat a far-right challenger for the nomination. And he will defeat any Democrat.
But, ultimately, when the excruciating decision has to be made (hopefully, soon), will he run?
Even with a rollicking Trump endorsement, even as strong an attraction as the United States Senate is, I’m still betting a lunch or two that Hatch will weigh it all and wisely decide to retire.
Even the greatest senator in history has to retire sometime, Orrin. You’ve done it all.