JUST IN: Hatch denies reports he is retiring to make room for Romney

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Rumors have been swirling that Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah has privately stated he will retire at the end of his term next year, and that plans are already in motion for Mitt Romney to run for his seat.

It’s already a “done deal,” according to Utah’s World Trade Center DEO Derek Miller, who said he was exploring the possibility of running for the seat himself, though affirming, “If Romney runs, I will fully support him.”

Hatch, 83, is the longest-serving Republican senator in Washington, and Utah Republicans have been working behind the scenes all year to convince him to step aside, according to a report in The Atlantic.

Romney, who lives near Salt Lake City, was the Republican nominee in the 2012 presidential election but lost to President Barack Obama. He has reportedly confirmed that he is eyeing the Utah Senate race, but said he “will defer to Orrin Hatch’s decision on his political future.”

Hatch, however, is denying the report. His spokesman, Dave Hansen, said:

“Nothing has changed since The Atlantic published a carbon copy of this same story in April, likely with the same anonymous sources who were no more informed on the senator’s thinking than they seem to be now. Senator Hatch is focused on leading the Senate’s efforts to pass historic tax reform, confirming strong judges to courts around the country, and continuing to fight through the gridlock to deliver results for Utah. He has not made a final decision about whether or not to seek reelection, but plans to by the end of the year.”

The Hill noted that a recent poll showed over 75 percent of voters surveyed in Utah would like Hatch to retire.

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