Retiring Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) gave another endorsement of his chosen successor, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, in his Thursday address at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s “Road to Majority” conference on Capitol Hill.
Hatch spoke as he accepted the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s 2018 Friend of the Family Award.
“If I hadn’t talked Mitt Romney into running, I probably would have run again. But I believe Mitt is going to make a very good senator,” Hatch told the conference.
Since he announced his retirement in January, Hatch, the Senate’s longest serving Republican, has made it clear he would support Romney. President Donald Trump also endorsed Romney, but the 2012 GOP presidential nominee is facing a challenge from the right by Utah House member Dr. Mike Kennedy.
Kennedy has accused Romney of running to be the “anti-Trump” in the U.S. Senate and said, “a Massachusetts Republican is not the same as a Utah Republican.”
“He’s been pretty moderate having come from Massachusetts, but he’s learned a lot since he moved to Utah, I’ll tell you that,” Hatch said Thursday, seeming to address concerns like Kennedy’s. “And he’ll continue to learn a lot here, and I’ll be his close friend, as I am right now. With your help, he’ll learn a lot. He’ll grow a lot. And I think he can carry on after I’m gone.”
Although he has had a certain rapprochement with President Trump as he seeks a seat in the Senate, Romney amassed an extensive anti-Trump record during and after the 2016 presidential campaign, famously calling Trump “a phony, a fraud.”
In his address, Hatch also praised the passage and positive economic impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, passed in December.
With his long history of service in the Senate, Hatch was able to recall the nearly successful fight for a Balanced Budget Amendment in the wake of 1994’s “Republican Revolution,” and the successful 1993 passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The Faith and Freedom Coalition’s predecessor, the Christian Coalition, played an important role in both the passage of RFRA and 1994’s wave election.
“Your leaders here are the best we have in Washington,” Hatch said of the Faith and Freedom Coalition. “So be proud of them, support them, give them all the help you possibly can, and build this entity, this organization, bigger and better … if you do that, America will never be in jeopardy.”