Utah's Orrin Hatch, the GOP's longest-serving Senator, announced Tuesday that he will leave Congress after his current term, opening up a Senate seat in his home state.
Hatch delivered the announcement in a video, posted to Twitter.
2017 marked Hatch's 40th year in Federal office - he was elected to his seat in 1977 - and he says it's time to retire.
"Every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves,” the senator says in the video. “For me, that time is soon approaching. That’s why after much prayer and discussion with family and friends, I’ve decided to retire at the end of this term.”
Members of the Republican party and, perhaps most notably, President Donald Trump had been pressuring Hatch to call it quits, even though Hatch enjoys a sky-high 83% approval rating in his home state, and has nearly $5 million in his campaign coffers.
According to sources close to the GOP in Utah, it was his wife Elaine who finally convinced the 83-year old to retire back to his home state.
Hatch is unlikely to leave office, however, without naming a successor. In previous interviews, Hatch was clear that he wanted former Presidential candidate and Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney to replace him. Romney has not made any commitments, but he has been rubbing elbows with some of Utah's top donors of late, even attending a high-profile GOP fundraiser in Salt Lake City in late November.
Romney is popular, and now lives in Utah, but at age 70, he's hardly a long-term replacement for Hatch, and he will have high-profile competition. Failed independent Presidential candidate Evan McMullin, who has turned into a leading "never Trump" voice (even to the point of entertaining rumors of Trump's associations with Russia), is also expected to throw his hat in the ring, though on Wednesday, he voiced his support for Romney.
To say that Romney is not beloved by the Trump White House is also an understatement. But Utah, as a whole, did not love Trump in return. Nearly a quarter of Utahns voted for a third party candidate.