Orrin Hatch to Retire, Setting Up Possible Mitt Romney Senate Run

“Every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves,” Hatch says

Sen. Orrin Hatch announced Tuesday that he will retire from the Senate after more than three decades in office, leaving the door open for Mitt Romney to run for his now-open seat.

The 83-year-old Utah Republican announced his plan in a video on Twitter, telling his followers that he will not run for re-election in 2018.

“I’ve always been a fighter. I was an amateur boxer in my youth, and I brought that fighting spirit with me to Washington,” he said. “But every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves. And for me, that time is soon approaching.”

Hatch has emerged as one of President Trump’s staunchest allies in the Senate. Trump urged Hatch to run again, a move that would have blocked former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney from potentially filling his seat.

Romney was reportedly considering running for Hatch’s seat if the senator retired. But unlike Hatch, Romney was an early vocal Trump critic during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Hatch’s decision clears the way for Romney’s comeback. The former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential nominee is a Utah resident and is popular with the state’s Mormon voters.

During the 2016 presidential race, Romney repeatedly criticized the president, calling him “a fraud.” Trump later responded, saying that Romney “choked like a dog” in the 2012 race.

During the transition, Romney was briefly considered as secretary of state, but the job eventually went to former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson.