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Washington • Sen. Orrin Hatch says he intends to run for re-election — but he added that a formal decision won't come until later this year, and he offered several reasons he still could step aside in 2018, including if his or his wife's health deteriorated.

Hatch, 83 and the longest serving GOP senator in history, told KUTV-Ch. 2 in an interview that he would seek an eighth term in office, offering the strongest indication yet after months of hedging when asked if he would retire after 42 years in Washington.

"Right now, yes, I'm going to run," Hatch told the TV station, though he later clarified that he may take that back if "my wife gets sick, or I get sick, or something like that."

Hatch, who had recently floated the idea of former presidential candidate Mitt Romney as his successor, also told KUTV that Romney is not going to run. Romney has not commented on Hatch's mention of him as a possible successor.

Hatch had promised in his 2012 re-election campaign that his seventh term would be his last. He later walked that back, noting that he may offer himself up to voters again if he was close to finishing a reform of the U.S. tax code.

The senator, who has served since 1976, says the motivating factors to run again are that the GOP now controls the White House and both houses of Congress and that President Donald Trump needs him to push through legislation like tax reform.

Another possible contender for Hatch's seat, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, has not ruled out running.

Even though Huntsman accepted an offer to serve as U.S. ambassador to Russia under President Donald Trump, a majority of Utahns still want him to launch a 2018 bid against Hatch.

Some 65 percent of registered Utah voters support Huntsman entering the race, according to a Utah Policy survey published Monday. Just 28 percent were opposed.

Huntsman declined to comment on the poll. He has previously told The Salt Lake Tribune that "regardless of poll numbers and 2018 politics, we should all be grateful for Senator Hatch's service to our state and country."

Poll respondents were split over how they'd prefer Huntsman to campaign: 44 percent said he should run as a Republican while 38 percent said he should run as an independent.

Additionally, the poll found, Huntsman has higher support for running from the left than from the right. About 75 percent of Utah Democrats indicated they'd like Huntsman to run in 2018 compared to 62 percent of Republicans in the state.

The poll among 844 registered Utah voters was conducted by Dan Jones & Associates March 22-29. It has a margin of error of 3.37 percentage points.

A Tribune-Hinckley Institute of Politics poll conducted in January found that 78 percent of Utahns — nearly 8 of 10 voters — opposed another bid by Hatch. Asked whether they would support Hatch or Huntsman if the 2018 Republican primary were held now, some 62 percent of voters picked Huntsman and 21 percent chose Hatch.

Huntsman met with Hatch at the U.S. Capitol in March and told The Washington Post that he was there "just to see a friend." Huntsman previously served as the U.S. ambassador to China under President Barack Obama.

The White House last month confirmed that it had offered Huntsman the job as the U.S. envoy to Russia but has not formally nominated him.,

Twitter: @thomaswburr, @CourtneyLTanner

Editor's note: The Salt Lake Tribune is owned and published by Paul Huntsman, the brother of former Gov. Jon Huntsman.