Tuesday, January 02, 2018


Orrin Hatch is retiring:
Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, the longest-serving Senate Republican, plans to announce on Tuesday he will retire at the end of the year, rebuffing the pleas of President Trump to seek an eighth term and paving the way for Mitt Romney to run for the seat....

Mr. Hatch, 83, was under heavy pressure from Mr. Trump to seek re-election and block Mr. Romney, who has been harshly critical of the president. But Mr. Hatch, who emerged as one of the president’s most avid loyalists in the Senate, decided to retire after discussing the matter with his family over the holidays. The veteran senator was also facing harsh poll numbers in Utah, where 75 percent of voters indicated in a survey last fall that they did not want him to run again.
I'm so old I remember when Steve Bannon thought his influence could be decisive in this race. It wasn't just Trump who was desperate for Hatch to hang on....
Last month, Mr. Trump flew with Mr. Hatch on Air Force One to Utah for a day of events that was aimed entirely at lobbying the senator to run again.

Mr. Trump announced he was vastly shrinking two of Utah’s sprawling national monuments, reversing decisions made by President Barack Obama and Bill Clinton at the request of the senator. And the president used a speech in Salt Lake City to say that he hoped Mr. Hatch would “continue to serve your state and your country in the Senate for a very long time to come.”

The senator returned the favor at the White House when Mr. Trump signed the tax measure, calling him “one heck of a leader.”
In early December, it was reported that Bannon, the self-styled scourge of the Establishment, was pondering an endorsement of Hatch:
Former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon is reportedly considering an endorsement of Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) to prevent Mitt Romney from launching a bid for the seat.

The Washington Examiner ... cited a Bannon associate who said the former top Trump aide is contemplating supporting Hatch.

“If Steve had a choice between Orrin Hatch and Mitt Romney, he would pick Hatch 10 times out of 10,” the source told the Examiner.
That report came a couple of days before Bannon attacked Romney as a draft-dodger:
Steve Bannon bashed Mitt Romney Tuesday night for, as he put it, hiding behind his religion to avoid getting drafted into the Vietnam War.

Bannon, stumping for controversial Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama in Fairhope, Alabama, touted Moore's military service in Vietnam and criticized Romney for his lack of "honor and integrity." Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, tweeted Monday, "no vote, no majority is worth losing our honor, our integrity."

"By the way, Mitt, while we're on the subject of honor an integrity, you avoided service, brother," Bannon said. "Mitt, here's how it is, brother: The college deferments, we can debate that -- but you hid behind your religion. You went to France to be a missionary while guys were dying in rice paddies in Vietnam."
A week after that, Moore lost his Senate race, and the notion that Bannon might play GOP kingmaker in the future took a beating. Yet I can't imagine Bannon slinking off into the sunset and allowing Romney to go uncontested. I think he'll at least try to find someone to run for the seat, and it probably won't matter if the challenger doesn't have a chance of beating Romney, who's extremely popular in Utah, because Breitbart can just pretend the challenger has a shot, the way it did in 2016, when Paul Nehlen challenged Paul Ryan in Wisconsin.

Nehlen lost that primary by a nearly 70-point margin, but Breitbart captured a lot of eyeballs with the futile hope that Ryan could be defeated. Expect the same thing to happen to Romney as he coasts to victory.

Nehlen, of course, was planning to mount another challenge to Ryan with Bannon's backing, but after Nehlen posted a series of white-nationalist tweets, Bannon dumped him just after Christmas.

The last month hasn't been great for Bannon the political strategist. If he has any sense, he'll quit the strategy game altogether. But I assume he won't.

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