SALT LAKE CITY — Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch may not be ready to walk away from the Senate next year, but if he does, former presidential candidate Mitt Romney would have outsize influence on the nation’s politics by taking his place.
That analysis from NBC political director Chuck Todd, moderator of the network’s “Meet the Press,” comes amid increasing speculation in Utah that Romney is seriously looking at a Senate run as Hatch’s retirement seems more likely.
Todd told the Deseret News and KSL Friday that Hatch “keeps flirting with this idea. I think he’s in some ways delayed this retirement announcement and it’s allowed Mitt Romney to prepare. I think he does like the idea of trying to hand the baton.”
Hatch, who had said during his 2012 re-election campaign that he would not seek an eighth term, has been far from clear about his intentions in the months since the story first surfaced.
Last week, Utah’s senior senator told KSL Newsradio that while he was “certainly saying” he was running for re-election, he “would be very pleased if Mitt Romney did run for Senate. I would feel good about retirement at that particular point.”
Then on Friday, Hatch answered, “not yet,” when asked if he was ready for retirement during a discussion about his role in the tax reform debate as chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee.
“I’m still a tough old bird. Nobody outworks me. I work very hard and I really enjoy what I’m doing and I know that it’s important. My goal is to do what’s right for America, not for the Republican Party or the Democratic Party.”
Todd said he believes Hatch’s decision about retirement depends on what Congress is able to accomplish with tax reform, a priority of President Donald Trump and the GOP.
“I think if progress gets made and it looks like something big could happen maybe in 2019 — it may not happen fully in…