Hatch jumps in, and then out, of Senate leadership race

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Sen. Orrin Hatch's bid to join the Republican leadership team lasted all of 15 minutes on Wednesday.

He told the Capitol Hill publication Roll Call that he planned to run for chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, a top four spot within the GOP.

"I'd be good at it. I know a lot, and I'd serve with my heart and soul," said Hatch, who promised to hold the position for only one year until he became the top Republican on the Finance Committee.

But Roll Call quickly posted an update saying that Hatch had second thoughts.

"I've just got too much on my plate," said Hatch, who called the race a "fleeting thought."

The false-start bid came a day after Nevada Sen. John Ensign revealed that he had a yearlong affair with a former staffer. On Wednesday, Ensign resigned as chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, sparking a race among his colleagues.

South Dakota Sen. John Thune is the leading candidate. After announcing his intention to jump into the race, Hatch called Thune. He decided not to stand in his way, saying through a spokesman that he "wholeheartedly supports John Thune for the position."

Hatch is deeply involved in the ongoing health care reform efforts and is a senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee that is preparing for the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.

He is also the vice chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which is raising money and recruiting candidates for the 2010 election cycle.