Republican Senator Hatch says will retire at end of current term

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Trump also appeared alongside Hatch at a Utah rally to push the Republican tax reform plan, where he called on the high-ranking Republican to keep serving in the Senate.

One worry for President Trump is that one of his biggest GOP critics could replace the Utah senator: Mitt Romney. He chairs the powerful Senate Finance Committee and was a major force in getting a tax overhaul through Congress and signed into law in December. "As your senator, I've always sought to fight for those who could not fight for themselves".

Orrin Hatch announced on Tuesday that he will not run for re-election in 2018 and leave the Senate at the end of his current term, after 42 years in his seat.

Romney released a statement on Facebook after Hatch's announcement. "And for me, that time is soon approaching", Hatch, a former amateur boxer, said in a video posted online.

Third in line for the presidency, longest-serving Republican in Senate history, an icon for conservatives, and the Washington embodiment of his home state.

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Evan McMullin, a 2016 presidential candidate from Utah who has also been critical of Trump, immediately urged Romney, the former governor of MA, to step into the race.

Hatch was popular in the state, and won with 65% of the vote in his 2012 re-election. On Christmas Day, The Salt Lake Tribune named the senator "Utahn of the Year," but not for flattering reasons.

President Trump reportedly stepped into the fray and has encouraged Hatch to run again in an attempt to box out Romney, who has been critical of Trump.

"He has been a senator from Utah longer than three-fifths of the state's population has been alive", the editorial board wrote.

The newspaper pointed out that Hatch, who has referred to himself as "a tough old bird", has faced questions about his age and his health - acknowledging that his decision on whether to run again would likely hinge on his own health and the health of his wife.

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