This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Orrin Hatch, a man who launched his political career by convincing voters that 18 years in the Senate were enough for anyone, now seems convinced that the world cannot get along without him.
The very senior senator from Utah is well into his seventh six-year term in Washington. He won his first election in 1976, the year that President Jimmy Carter was elected, has been re-elected comfortably six times and, despite a promise that his most recent campaign would be his last, is now sending out signals that he might indeed stand for an eighth term in 2018.
But Hatch would do his constituents a great service, and do much to burnish an already considerable legacy, if he were to announce, soon, that he is, indeed, ready to come home.
The voters of Utah have already come to that conclusion.
A new poll commissioned by The Salt Lake Tribune and the Hinckley Institute of Politics shows that the 82-year-old lawmaker retains an approval rating of 51 percent but that an overwhelming 78 percent of those polled say that Hatch should either definitely not (58 percent) or probably not (20 percent) run again. The poll was conducted by Dan Jones and Associates, which has been Hatch's own pollster for much of his career, though the firm is not working for him now.
Like many other long-serving members of Congress, Hatch can always think of something in his case such eternal issues as tax reform, entitlement reform, boosting the power of the states that will finally be done. But only if he hangs around for one more term.
Hatch's argument for a new term would be much stronger if he had spent his current one embracing the role of elder statesman, wise man, the grown-up in the room.
Instead, perhaps spooked by the 2010 ouster of former colleague Bob Bennett by tea party favorite Mike Lee, Hatch has only sharpened his partisanship. Long gone are the days when Hatch was widely, and deservedly, praised for working across the aisle with Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., to accomplish such things as the creation of the Children's Health Insurance Program in 1997.
Now Hatch is mostly a scold, crusading against the Affordable Care Act, abandoning compassionate positions that would have offered much more welcoming policies toward the children of undocumented residents and, most recently, hopping on the bandwagon of senators who denied President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee so much as a hearing.
Just last week, Hatch pushed the hypocrisy meter off the chart when he chided Democrats for daring to challenge some of President Donald Trump's choices for various Cabinet posts, seemingly unaware of what he and his Republican colleagues had done to Judge Merrick Garland.
Meanwhile, back in Utah, the clock is ticking. Anyone who might want to challenge Hatch, or succeed him, needs to be making plans and raising money for an expensive statewide race. Properly preparing such a campaign can't be done if Hatch and his massive power of incumbency are still sucking all the air out of the room.
The senator deserves credit for his long service on behalf of Utah and the nation. He has stood up for the state's needs and interests and has won a long line of plaudits and thank yous for his help for Utah-based industries.
Hatch should announce his retirement soon, take a well-earned victory lap around the state, and call it good.