President Donald Trump on Monday said he wanted Sen. Orrin Hatch to run for reelection, lavishing praise on the Utah Republican on several occasions during a brief visit to the snow-covered state.
"We hope you will continue to serve your state and your country in the Senate for a long time to come," Trump said in the state Capitol, calling Hatch a "fighter," a high compliment from the president.
At another event, Trump mouthed "yes" when asked whether he wanted Hatch to run again in 2018 while pushing a shopping cart through The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Welfare Square as he purported to look for tuna. He seemed to throw cold water on a potential Mitt Romney bid, only saying "he's a good man" when asked about the 2012 Republican presidential nominee. Romney was one of Trump's most vocal Republican critics during the campaign, but later interviewed to be his secretary of State.
The future of Hatch, who is 83, has dominated political chatter in Utah and has sparked much behind-the-scenes maneuvering. Privately, Trump has told people he wants Hatch — chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee — to keep the seat and has implored the senator to run, saying he doesn't want Romney in the Senate. He also has told the senator that on several occasions.
Trump and Hatch have developed something of a rapport in Trump's first year. While many Republican senators disdain the president — and some even criticize him publicly — the Utah senator speaks positively about Trump.
The president, in turn, has appreciated Hatch's public praise of his administration and children. The president also associates the Utah Republican with the success of the tax bill in the Senate.
On Monday, Hatch said Trump called him into the Oval Office on his fifth day in office and asked how he could help Utah. Hatch asked him to reverse the designation of 2 million acres of land in Utah as national monuments, the largest such reversal in history.
Trump was happy to comply.
"I asked for the president's help in fixing this disaster," Hatch said. "Without hesitation, he looked at me square in the eye, and said we'll fix it."
He added that Trump was the "most famous man in the world." Trump seemed to like the introduction, saying it was "truly" a good one.