Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch announced he will retire at the end of this year. The departure opens the door to a likely run by Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee and former Massachusetts governor. Romney reportedly indicated to associates last year that he would enter the race if Hatch chose not to run.
Now in his 7th term, Hatch is the longest-serving Republican in the Senate. He joined in early 1977 after winning in 1976. Only Vermont's Patrick Leahy, who entered the Senate in 1975, has served longer. Leahy was elected to an 8th term in 2016.
Romney would be the prohibitive favorite to win should he choose to run.
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