Sen. Orrin Hatch retirement rumors are heating up again, and this time it could be a question of when, not if Utah's senior senator plans to step aside.
The Atlantic magazine reported Friday that Hatch has privately been telling friends he will retire at the end of his term next year, citing five sources familiar with the conversations.
Hatch’s office immediately rebutted the article, saying there was nothing new to be reported. The seven-term Republican senator has repeatedly said he’s yet to make a final decision.
“Sen. Hatch has a difficult decision to make,” says Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics. “In the end, he is the only one who can make it, and people are going to wait for him to do it.”
That said, Perry says speculation continues to grow about Mitt Romney entering the race should Hatch step aside.
“The buzz about a potential Mitt Romney run for Senate is circulating throughout the state, and so far he has not stopped those rumors," he says.
In a Dan Jones poll released this month, 75 percent of Utahns say Hatch should not run for an eighth term. Perry says this same group usually gives the 83-year-old senator high marks, despite wanting him to retire.
“People in Utah are grateful for his service, they believe he’s done a great job, and 75 percent of those same people feel that it’s time for him to give someone else a chance,” he says.