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SALT LAKE CITY — President Donald Trump is pushing Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, to run for an eighth term.
But the senator’s office insists it’s not to block former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney from getting into the race.
Politico reported Sunday that Trump is going all out to persuade Hatch to seek re-election in no small part to prevent his longtime nemesis, Romney, from winning the seat.
Trump has been urging Hatch to run long before Romney entered the conversation, according to the senator’s office.
“Whether it’s confirming judges, passing tax reform or accomplishing any part of his agenda, Hatch is a key player in getting anything done,” Hatch spokesman Matt Whitlock said late Sunday.
As a GOP Senate leader and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Hatch has worked “exceptionally” well with the president, Whitlock said.
Hatch, the second senator to endorse Trump during the presidential campaign, has said he’s running again but has not announced a final decision.
Romney has been preparing to run for Hatch’s seat on the long-held assumption that the 83-year-old would retire, according to Politico.
Yet Hatch, the longest-serving Republican senator in history, is now refusing to rule out another campaign — a circumstance Romney’s infuriated inner circle blames squarely on the president. Their suspicions are warranted: Trump has sounded off to friends about how he doesn't like the idea of a Senator Romney, Politico reports.
Also, Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, is contemplating endorsing Hatch to block Romney, the Washington Examiner reported Sunday.
“If Steve had a choice between Orrin Hatch and Mitt Romney, he would pick Hatch 10 times out of 10,” the Examiner reported, citing a source close to Bannon.
Trump has mostly tried to sway Hatch behind the scenes.
But the two will fly together on Air Force One to Salt Lake City on Monday where the president is expected to slash the sizes of Bear Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. Trump previously said he is doing it for Hatch.
Hatch, the president pro tem of the Senate, recently tweeted that Trump is the best president he has served under in the line of succession. Trump later thanked Hatch on Twitter saying, “Let’s continue to make America great again!” The president last week also praised Hatch’s efforts on passing the Republican tax bill.
Romney has called out Trump several times.
During the 2016 presidential primary race, he labeled Trump a fraud and a phony in a University of Utah speech.
After Trump was elected, Romney was among the candidates interviewed for secretary of state but he has remained critical of the president on social media.
In August, after Trump said there was blame on both sides for violence stemming from a rally of white supremacists and Nazi sympathizers in Charlottesville, West Virginia, Romney said the president needed to apologize.
"No, not the same. One side is racist, bigoted, Nazi. The other opposes racism and bigotry. Morally different universes," Romney tweeted, following up with a Facebook post urging Trump to "act now for the good of the country."