Sure sounds like Orrin Hatch is going to block Romney by running again

For cripes sake, will someone please primary this vacillating dinosaur? Besides Evan McMullin, I mean; somehow he’s managed to annoy even NeverTrumpers with his incessant scolding. Ideally Mitt would do it but he’s too nice a guy to punt an old man into retirement. Maybe Mike Lee has a conservative buddy somewhere in Utah who’d be game for a run.

I’ve reminded you before but will remind you again that Hatch first got elected in 1976 by saying of his predecessor, Frank Moss, “What do you call a senator who’s served in office for 18 years? You call him home.” Hatch will finish his 41st year in the Senate in January. If, after assuring Utahns in 2012 that this would be his last term, he decides to run again in 2018 and serves the entire six years, he’ll finish as the third-longest serving senator in U.S. history behind only Robert Byrd and Daniel Inouye. (Unless, that is, Pat Leahy is also still serving on New Year’s Day 2025, in which case Hatch would be fourth.) Assuming he retires then, he’d be 90 years old.

You could understand him running again if he was under intense pressure from the party to do so, whether because his seat would be in grave danger of flipping to the Democrats if he retired (the Marco Rubio scenario) or because a Bannon-style populist was poised to seize it and become a pain in the ass to Mitch McConnell (the Thad Cochran scenario). But neither condition obtains in Utah. Mr Establishment, Mitt Romney, is standing by to inherit Hatch’s seat. If Hatch runs again, it’ll be out of pure vanity fueled by presidential vanity in wanting to keep a Trump critic out of the Senate. Per McKay Coppins, it looks like that’s where things are headed:

In a recent meeting, Chris Hansen, the executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told a group of GOP political consultants that he had detected a recent shift in Hatch’s attitude toward reelection, according to a source who was present, who requested anonymity to discuss the confidential conversation. The source said Hansen speculated that Hatch might run again, serve out the remainder of his committee chairmanship, and then retire after two years…

“I’ve been encouraging Mitt to just send out a Tweet that says, ‘Orrin, thank you for encouraging me so strongly to consider running for the Senate. I have, and I’m going to do it. I couldn’t have done this without you!’” one Romney ally told me. “But Mitt’s too much of a gentleman at his core.”…

“If we get beyond the end of the year, or into January, and Hatch has still not said anything, and kind of keeps playing this game,” said one longtime Romney adviser, “I think there’s a chance that all bets are off at that point.”

Not only has Hatch called Romney an ideal successor in the past, according to Coppins he hand-delivered a memo to a reluctant Mitt listing the reasons he should consider running. Now, after a charm offensive by Trump aimed at blocking a less docile Republican from taking Hatch’s place, he’s having second thoughts. Boyd Matheson, with whom Steve Bannon had chatted about a potential primary challenge to Romney, told Coppins that some Utahns are irritated by Hatch’s increasing sycophancy towards Trump, especially by backing up his support for Roy Moore. “Will he really say anything to hold on to power?” wondered Matheson. Apparently.

Chin up, though, Romney fans. There’s one silver lining to Hatch blocking Mitt’s path by running for reelection, namely, it gives Utahns a chance to replace him with a much younger man or woman. Romney’s a spry 70 years old, but 70 is 70 and the U.S. Senate is already more of a gerontocracy than ever before. Matheson decided against a Senate run in the past few months but who knows if that’ll stick if the highly vulnerable Hatch decides to try for an eighth term. He’s 51. Derek Miller, a Utah business leader who’s thinking seriously of challenging Hatch if he runs again, is also considerably younger than him and Romney. If you want a Congress that’s more representative of the public, you should want more moms and dads and fewer grandmas and grandpas.

“What happens around here, it’s pretty seductive,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), a 65-year-old who decided this fall he would retire at the end of 2018. “The longer you’re here, the more influence that you have. So it causes you to want to stay and stay and stay.”…

Corker says it’s easy to grow comfortable with the trappings of power and a large staff that, as senators grow older, sometimes functions like a team of aides in a retirement home.

“Think about it,” he said. “If you’re older, you’ve got more influence, and you’ve got an entire staff of people that, in essence, take care of you every day. Where else, where else can you obtain that? Seriously?”

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the two most ardent champions in the Senate of expanding the child tax credit and making more of it refundable were a pair of 46-year-olds, Marco Rubio and Mike Lee, both of whom have school-aged children. Per WaPo, eight senators currently serving are 80 or older and another handful are between 75 and 79. Mitt would land in that latter group by the end of his first term if he does in fact succeed Hatch next year. A younger upstart ousting Hatch, whom heavy majorities of Utahns have said should retire across multiple polls this year, wouldn’t be the worst outcome.

Here’s Hatch yesterday laying it on nice and thick for his pal POTUS. You won’t see this from Sen. Romney, which is exactly why Trump wants Hatch where he is.