BY BRIDGET BOWMAN AND SIMONE PATHÉ
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell confirmed Friday that he has spoken with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney about running for the Senate from Utah if the state’s senior senator, Orrin G. Hatch, does not seek an eighth term.
“I’ve had some conversations with Mitt Romney. Obviously, I am an Orrin Hatch supporter. … If [Hatch] wants to run again, I’m for him,” McConnell said.
Hatch reiterated Friday that he still intends to run for re-election in 2018, but said that if he decides against it, he would want Romney to run for his seat.
“I don’t know if he’s doing that, but more power to him,” Hatch said when asked to respond to a report from The Atlantic that Romney was exploring a Senate run and had spoken to McConnell about it.
Hatch floated Romney’s name as a possible successor in an interview with National Journal last week, saying the 2012 Republican presidential nominee “would be perfect.” Hatch’s office then sought to downplay the “overhyped intrigue” his comments has provoked.
Asked on Friday if he had spoken to Romney about a potential Senate run, Hatch said, “Oh, yeah. I said, ‘If I don’t run, I’d sure like him to consider running.’ He’s not going to run if I do. Right now, we intend to, but we’ll see. It’s two years away so we’ll have to see.”
Thursday’s Atlantic report suggested that McConnell assured Romney that if he ran for Hatch’s open seat, he’d have more seniority than a freshman senator normally would.
Hatch, 83, is the longest serving Republican senator. First elected in 1976, he had previously said his seventh term would be his last. If he runs again, he could still be vulnerable to a primary threat.
McConnell also said Friday that he expects Trump’s political operation to defer to the Senate GOP leadership on playing in Senate races. The majority leader recalled issues in 2010 and 2012 when unelectable candidates made it through Republican primaries.
Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.