Headline, March 14, 2012: “HATCH WILL RETIRE IN 2018 IF HE WINS REELECTION.” Coincidentally, he was facing a primary challenge at the time and a tea-party base that wasn’t thrilled with the idea of sending a 78-year-old back to the Senate for six more years. If “draining the swamp” means anything, it means at a minimum replacing elderly careerists with younger legislators every decade or three, no? That was Hatch’s bargain with populists — give him one more term and then he’ll step aside.
So they gave him one more term after he spent the primary running on his conservative credentials. (Ahem.) He repaid them by turning around the next year and voting for the Gang of Eight bill. Lo and behold, with the tea party now a spent force and a not very conservative Republican president in his corner, he’s decided to drop his self-imposed term limits and give himself a birthday present (he’ll be 83 in less than two weeks) of yet another six years in the Senate. If all goes for well for him, he’ll be in the chamber for his 90th birthday in March 2024.
Drain the swamp?
“I’m planning on (running) right now,” Hatch told CNN Thursday. “That’s what my current plans are.”…
The decision comes as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Trump have both tried to persuade the powerful chairman of the Senate Finance Committee to run again.
“His pitch is he needs me,” Hatch said of Trump. “Things are going to be just fine.”…
Asked if he was preparing for a tough 2018 reelection battle, Hatch said: “Anyone who wants to take me on knows it’s going to be a real ordeal.”
Jon Huntsman was thinking of taking him on, before Trump conveniently took him out of the picture yesterday by making him ambassador to Russia. (Hatch waited nearly 24 hours before canceling his 2012 pledge once Huntsman dropped off the radar.) Here’s how that hypothetical race looked in January:
The same poll found 58 percent of Utahns saying “definitely not” when asked whether Hatch should run again and another 20 percent saying “probably not.” He’s vulnerable — or was, until Trump moved Huntsman out of the race and into the diplomatic ranks.
There’s nothing unusual about the party leaning on an incumbent to run again, especially a proven winner like Hatch. They twisted Marco Rubio’s arm last year as hard as they could, believing that he was the only Republican in Florida who could win that seat. And they were right. Big difference, though: Rubio hails from a purple state while Hatch comes from one of the reddest in America. His seat’s going red no matter who fills it. So why do Trump and McConnell want it filled by him? Is the answer … Evan McMullin? That’s the only reason I can come up with that Trump might be worried about Hatch retiring. Lots of people suspected McMullin’s Utah-centric presidential run last year was mainly about raising his profile in the state so that he could run for Hatch’s Senate seat in 2018, whether Hatch kept his promise to retire or not. McMullin is one of the harshest Trump critics in the GOP but for the moment his attacks are limited to his Twitter feed and the occasional three-minute segment on CNN. Becoming a U.S. senator would give him a megaphone to tear into Trump every day, and it may be that Hatch (or one of the Romney sons?) is the only man who can stop him. That is to say, this situation may be more like Rubio’s Florida run last year than it seems at first blush. Trump and McConnell wanted Rubio elected in order to keep his seat away from an anti-Trumper on the left. They may want Hatch elected to keep his seat away from an anti-Trumper on the right.
Exit question: Any chance we can get some momentum going for a constitutional amendment that would make 80 the mandatory retirement age for all federal officials? I assume not, as that would mean President Trump would have to step down during his third term.