Former Massachusetts Gov. and 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is preparing to run for the Senate in Utah in 2018 if incumbent Sen. Orrin Hatch (R.) chooses to retire, according to a new report.
Sources close to Romney told UtahPolicy.com that if Hatch, 83, decides not to seek reelection, the two-time presidential candidate will launch a Senate bid.
Romney has been exploring a possible Senate run for months; sources familiar with the situation back in April said he was discussing the matter with GOP leaders, but would not make a move without Hatch's blessing.
A longtime political adviser to Hatch, Dave Hansen, said last month that the senator would make up his mind in October, but sources recently told UtahPolicy.com he may not decide on his political future until December.
If Hatch does decide to run in 2018, it would be his eight term in office. He has previously said that he plans to run unless health becomes an issue for himself or his wife.
Romney will not be the only Republican to jump into the race if Hatch chooses to step down. Rep. Chris Stewart (R., Utah) has said he will jump into the ring as well.
"If he chooses not to run—and he's indicated that he probably will—but if he were to change his mind and not run, then I believe that we would," Stewart told the Salt Lake Tribune last month.
Stewart praised Hatch in the same interview, saying Utah would lose "stature" without him.
"Utah will lose certain stature without Sen. Hatch. His position and the respect that he carries has been beneficial to our state," he said.
A recent poll from UtahPolicy.com has Romney polling at 64 percent against Democrat Jenny Wilson's 26 percent in a potential 2018 matchup. In a contest between Stewart and Wilson for 2018, Stewart polls at 34 percent and Wilson at 30 percent.
In an interview with the National Journal back in March, Hatch said he would be willing to step aside for an "outstanding person." When asked if he had anyone in mind, Hatch said, "Well, Mitt Romney would be perfect."