Drama: Trump trying to block Romney from replacing Hatch in the Senate? Update: Run, Orrin, run, says Trump

I don’t know why Trump’s worried about having Romney in the Senate. Sure, he’ll be more willing to criticize the White House than Orrin Hatch is, but he’ll be a useful foil for Trump. Populists hate Romney and view him as a quintessential milquetoast “globalist” who lost because he wasn’t willing to “fight” the way Trump was. Him attacking Trump will come off as a loser’s sour grapes towards a winner and will only bind most Republican voters more closely to the president. Worst-case scenario is that he ends up being another Flake-ish thorn in Trump’s side, a chronic irritant, but ask yourself: Who ended up winning the Trump/Flake war?

And imagine the tweets. Oh, the tweets. You’d think after 70+ years Trump would realize that he’s not happy unless he’s feuding with someone publicly.

Romney’s only a serious problem for him if he ends up going full maverick and voting with Democrats on big-ticket items, but the chances of that are remote. He may not be “severely conservative” but he’s plenty conservative and he’d be representing one of the reddest states in the country. More than that, he’s an establishmentarian so he’d doubtless end up as a reliable McConnell ally. He’ll vote with the leadership on most things and the leadership will serve the White House on most things.

The only matter on which Senator Romney is a significantly greater liability than Senator Hatch for the White House is on a removal vote if Trump ends up being impeached by the House. But the odds of that happening are about as likely as Romney becoming a Democrat.

Romney has been preparing to run for Hatch’s seat on the long-held assumption that the 83-year-old would retire. 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…

[P]eople close to Romney are convinced that Trump’s main motivation is to keep the 2012 GOP presidential nominee out of the Senate. Romney himself has expressed frustration with the ongoing uncertainty about Hatch’s plans, said three Republicans who’ve spoken with him recently. The former Massachusetts governor has pointed out that it was Hatch who urged him to consider running in the first place, but now appears to be wavering on whether to step aside…

Romney has told people that while he wouldn’t be reflexively anti-Trump as a senator, he would be more than willing to let his criticisms be known.

Trump and Hatch will be in Utah together today to announce that Trump is reducing the size of some federal monuments. We’ll see how effusive he is in calling publicly for Hatch to run again. Romney’s fate rests entirely in Hatch’s hands: The most likely Bannon-backed primary challenger, Boyd Matheson, announced recently that he won’t run for Senate and even if he did he’s likely to get crushed by a Romney juggernaut. Check this out:

The UtahPolicy.com poll released Thursday found Romney, the former GOP presidential nominee, would defeat [Democrat Jenny] Wilson with 72 percent of the vote to Wilson’s 21 percent. And Hatch, who’s represented Utah in the U.S. Senate since January 1977, would win with 50 percent of the vote to Wilson’s 35 percent.

If Hatch retires and opts not to seek an eighth term, 72 percent of Utahns would support Romney, should he decide to run for the seat, according to the poll.

Hatch would hold the seat if he runs again but all sorts of polls taken this year have showed Utahns are tired of him and eager for a fresh face. (Romney, a 70-year-old former presidential nominee, counts as fresh relative to Hatch.) Case in point: A poll taken in September previewing a Hatch/Wilson race forgot to note party affiliation, which produced a result of … Wilson 45, Hatch 34. Essentially, Utahns will vote for him again over any Democrat while preferring that pretty much any Republican take over the seat instead.

Question: If Hatch decides to quit, is there any job Trump could offer Romney that might entice him to skip the Senate run? I know we have a State Department vacancy coming up but Mike Pompeo seems to have a stranglehold on that and Romney obviously doesn’t want to work in close quarters with Trump after having had a look at how this administration runs over the past 10 months. Conceivably there’s an important ambassadorship that might entice him but all of the big ones have been filled. Huntsman’s in Russia, Terry Branstad’s in China, and Victor Cha is lined up to take over in South Korea although he hasn’t been confirmed yet. The U.S. is still looking around for an ambassador to Saudi Arabia, though, which is an … interesting country right now for all sorts of reasons. Would Romney accept a diplomatic post that promises to involve lots of high-stakes foreign policy? The alternative is to primary Hatch — a race he’d very likely win. But he’s not that kind of guy.

Update: And there you go.