Donald Trump will do everything he can to persuade Utah senator in seven terms, Orrin Hatch, to seek re-election, an impulse largely aimed at preventing the president's nemesis, Mitt Romney, from leaving the Senate.
Romney was preparing to run for Hatch's post on the long-held badumption that the 83-year-old man would retire. However, Hatch, the longest serving republican senator in history, now refuses to rule out another campaign, a circumstance that infuriated Romney's inner circle and blames the president directly. His suspicions are justified: Trump has polled his friends about how he does not like the idea of a Senator Romney.
The story continues below
The president's campaign mostly behind the scenes to influence Hatch will erupt in public viewing on Monday, when he arrives in Salt Lake City to celebrate a well choreographed event designed to show his affection by the powerful chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
Trump's appearance is apparently of official purpose: he will announce his decision to reduce the size of the Bears Ears and Grand-Staircase Escalante national monuments in Utah, a cause that Hatch has defended. But it is also undeniably political: to use the symbols of presidential power to get a veteran legislator to reconsider his anticipated plans to leave the Senate.
Trump is scheduled to travel with Hatch both ways on Air Force One: an approximate total of nine round-trip hours. After descending together from the plane, the two will meet Mormon leaders and then head to the state capitol to sign the executive order, according to three White House officials. Hatch will present Trump, who in turn expects him to praise the senator. After the order is signed, Hatch is expected to receive the president's pen.
Public display of affection is not just about blocking Romney, say senior administration officials. Trump has been loyal to Hatch since the senator defended him following the episode of the movie "Access Hollywood" at the end of the 2016 campaign. Hatch trapped by Trump even when other members of the Utah Republican delegation withdrew their support.
More recently, Hatch has played a key role in approving Trump's tax reform bill.
Trump's advisers say the president's link with Hatch began long before Romney emerged as a possible successor. Hatch visited Trump in the Oval Office during the first week of his presidency for a long discussion about the vacant seat of the Supreme Court and the national monuments of Utah.
However, people close to Romney are convinced that Trump's main motivation is to keep the 2012 Republican Candidate for the presidency outside the Senate. Romney himself has expressed frustration with the ongoing uncertainty about Hatch's plans, said three Republicans who have spoken to him recently. The former Mbadachusetts governor has pointed out that it was Hatch who urged him to consider leaving in the first place, but now he seems to doubt whether to let go.
"Hatch is an entity known to Trump and has been really good for the president for the most part," said Kirk Jowers, a friend of Romney who previously served as president and general counsel of his political action committee. "He knows for sure that he's not going to get that with Romney, I do not know if he knows what he's going to get with Romney, but it will not be what he has with Hatch."
In fact, there is widespread concern within the White House that Romney in the Senate could make Trump's life difficult. During the 2016 campaign, the former governor of Mbadachusetts emerged as the de facto leader of the Republican establishment's "Never triumph" campaign, delivering a nationwide speech in which he criticized Trump as a "false fraud" and implored the party to stop it.
Hatch, on the other hand, went all-in for Trump in Utah, where Trump received only 46 percent of the vote, but still took the state due to a third-party candidate. Prior to the election, the senator also campaigned for Trump in four states, marking the way with the candidate's son, Donald Trump Jr. While many Republicans publicly express their problems with Trump, Hatch has usually telegraphed his concerns in private conversations with Trump. President .
"I'll put it this way, Senator Hatch was one of the president's main voices throughout the campaign," said Don Peay, a friend of the Trump family who led his campaign in Utah. "Hatch clearly strongly supported Trump from the beginning," said Peay, who helped organize Monday's event.
Trump's push for Hatch to run for an eighth term has taken place in furtive phone calls and in West Wing. In early October, the senator called the president to invite him to Utah to announce his memorial plan, said one person informed about the discussion.
Near the end of the call, the president transmitted an application. "Orrin," he said, "I really hope you consider running again."
Hatch told Trump that he had not made a decision.
Their mutual affection has been public at the time. When journalists asked Hatch last week about Trump's decision to retweet several anti-Muslim videos, the senator said he was not "aware" of the firestorm, and then praised Trump.
"I'll say this for you." He has been one of the best presidents to whom I have served, and the reason is that he is not afraid to make decisions. He is not afraid to face the big boss around here, "Hatch said.
Trump responded by tweeting a video of the comment" Thank you @SenOrrinHatch, "he added." Let's continue to AMERICANIZE A GREAT AGAIN! "
The relationship Romney's post-election with Trump has been much more … complicated.
During the transition, Trump considered nominating Romney as secretary of state, Trump hoped he did not like Romney, but was surprised at how well they gelled during the interview process, something he told his advisors several times at the time, Trump finally decided against Romney.
As the year progressed, the former governor praised the new president for some of his staffing options. He made his differences known.
During an appearance in Park City, Utah, in June, Romney told a group of prominent Republican donors that Trump's White House was too consumed by the int Riga of the palace. He also offered an implicit criticism of President "America First" approach to foreign policy, emotionally growing while describing the country's humanitarian responsibilities abroad.
Then, in August, Romney attacked again, this time to implore the president to apologize for equating the white supremacists who planted the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia with their counter-demonstrators.
"Mr. President," Romney wrote in a Facebook message, "act now for the good of the country."
Romney has been touring Utah amid speculation that Hatch is about to retire, huddled with a string of Republican figures, including state House Speaker Greg Hughes. Romney has told people that although he would not be reflexively anti-Trump as a senator, he would be more than willing to let his criticisms be known.
Some Trump allies argue that Utah would be better served by having a presidential loyalist in the seat.
"I think it could be a great ally of the president but, as you know, they are very different people and they have very different personalities," said Hughes, who recently met with Romney in his office. in the state capitol. "Senator Hatch," he added, "understands the president very well."
When asked who would prefer to have the president in the seat, Hughes, who was once mentioned as a candidate for a Trump administration position, said he had little doubt: "I think the president likes to have a strong ally" .
Romney, meanwhile, will not be at Monday's event. He was invited but, several people close to him said, he will be out of town.
Over the weekend, Romney wrote a tweet that underscored his respect for Hatch but also, perhaps, hinted at the belief that the senator had now achieved what he needed before moving on.
"A very big week for Senator @OrrinHatch of Utah," he wrote, "with tax reform, the Bears Ears reversal and a presidential visit."