Trump urging longest-serving Republican senator to run for re-election

Reports: Donald Trump and Steve Bannon Eager to Block Mitt Romney Senate Campaign in Utah

The president's mostly behind-the-scenes campaign to sway Hatch will burst into public view on Monday, when he arrives in Salt Lake City to hold a well-choreographed event created to showcase his affection for the powerful Senate Finance Committee chairman.

Utah polls show that big majorities of voters want Hatch to retire and that Romney would easily win the seat. It also has the effect of sending a not-so-veiled message to Mitt Romney, whose name has been floated as a potential replacement for Hatch should he retire.

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Trump praised Hatch during the event and said he hopes the senator will "continue to serve your state and your country in the Senate for a very long time to come". While many Republican senators disdain the president - and some even criticize him publicly - the Utah senator speaks positively about Trump.

A spokesman for Hatch says the senator plans to announce a final decision by the end of the year.

The renewed focus comes as Trump visits Utah for the first time as president. He feels that he still has unfinished work to do in the Senate, and his ability to shepherd through tax reform - which has always been a top goal for him - has deepened his feeling that he can continue to be an effective and powerful leader on Capitol Hill at a time when his party is deeply divided.

Romney was no friend of Trump's on the campaign trail; in March 2016, he labeled the president "a phony" and "a fraud" whose "promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University". Earlier this year in an interview with National Journal, Hatch addressed whether he'd support Romney if he ever ran to replace him in the Senate.

"If Steve had a choice between Orrin Hatch and Mitt Romney, he would pick Hatch 10 times out of 10", the source said. "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".

In discussions with almost a dozen friends, donors and former advisers, Romney has expressed strong interest in the post if Hatch were to retire.

Trump called Hatch in October to and requested he run again, sources familiar with the call told Politico. "Mitt Romney has neither opened the door nor closed it".

It seems unlikely that many Utahns are waiting breathlessly to see who Bannon thinks should be their next senator - or Trump for that matter.

Such concern apparently exists outside the White House as well. According to the Washington Examiner, former White House strategist Steve Bannon is considering endorsing Hatch to keep Romney out of the Senate.

To a man who prioritizes loyalty above all, that fact would not go unnoticed.

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