SALT LAKE CITY — Mitt Romney’s interest in running for the Senate appears to be intensifying, even though Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has shown no sign he’s decided to retire.
“Everyone is waiting for him to make that decision,” said Jason Perry, head of the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics. “Even Mitt Romney is waiting for that decision, out of an abundance of respect for the career Sen. Hatch has had.”
But Perry said that hasn’t stopped the 2012 GOP presidential nominee from openly discussing a possible Senate run next year.
A story posted Friday in Politico reported Romney, a former Massachusetts governor who now calls Utah home, is reaching out to Utah power brokers and making other moves toward getting in the race.
“Mitt Romney is talking to influential people within the state and without the state. One of those influential people is Sen. Hatch himself. These discussions are occurring. It’s no secret to any of us or to Sen. Hatch,” Perry said, calling the report accurate.
It comes as Hatch is taking the lead in GOP tax reform efforts in Congress and follows President Donald Trump saying he has approved reducing the size of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase national monuments “for you, Orrin.”
Trump and his supporters are trying to make it clear to Hatch that they don’t want to see him replaced by Romney, one of the president’s harshest critics during last year’s campaign, Perry said.
Still, polls have shown Utah voters don’t want the senator first elected in 1976 to run again, despite the power he has in Washington as head of the Senate Finance Committee and as Senate president pro-tempore, third in line to the presidency.
Hatch isn’t going to be pushed into anything, Perry said.
“No one is going to make the decision for him. If he decides he wants to go, no one is going to talk him out of…