Does Trump Have It Out for Mitt Romney?

Does Trump Have It Out for Mitt Romney?

Hatch, who is flying to Utah and back Monday with Trump on Air Force One, has been one of the president's most loyal and outspoken supporters in the Senate.

According to the Washington Examiner, former Trump adviser and Breitbart chairman Steve Bannon - who was previously recruiting far-right candidates to challenge Hatch in a primary - is now considering endorsing the incumbent senator for re-election.

The president's motives aren't hard to discern: retaining Hatch would allow Trump to keep an ally close while spurning Romney, his onetime presidential primary opponent who remains a vocal critic, and who would in theory prove a much less obliging Congressman. While he and Hatch toured a Salt Lake City food pantry alongside leaders of the Church of Latter Day Saints, Trump sidestepped questions of whether he was trying to block Romney from running, saying only "He's a good man".

However, Utah Republican House Speaker Greg Hughes maintained Romney "could be a great ally of the president, but, as you well know, they're very different people and have very different personalities".

Romney was no friend of Trump's on the campaign trail; in March 2016, he labeled the president "a phony" and "a fraud" whose "promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University". At the time, Hatch told Trump that he hadn't yet made up his mind. "He's not afraid to take on the big boss around here", Hatch said.

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But the president's reciprocal strong public support for Hatch is not just a vote of confidence in the Utah senator. Yet Hatch, the longest-serving Republican senator in history, is now refusing to rule out another campaign - a circumstance Romney's infuriated inner circle blames squarely on the president.

ABC News has reached out to a Romney spokesperson for comment but has not received a response. But Trump reportedly put a wrench in that plan, telling Hatch over the phone, "Orrin, I really hope you will consider running again". Asked by reporters whether he had encouraged Hatch to seek re-election, Trump answered, "Yes".

But Hatch is also a fan of Romney's.

"If Steve had a choice between Orrin Hatch and Mitt Romney, he would pick Hatch 10 times out of 10", the source said. Hatch is 83 years old, and according to someone familiar with his thinking, he would indeed like to retire. "He never uttered a negatively critical word about Trump", the source said.

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