SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Orrin Hatch plans to run for an eighth term . . . unless.
Unless his health goes south. Unless his wife gets sick. Unless, unless. You get the picture.
"I've said that I'm going to run again," the Utah Republican told the Deseret News on Monday. "It's two years away. Who knows what could happen in two years, and Elaine would kind of like to have me home every once in a while, too."
Asked why he wouldn't run again, the 83-year-old senator chuckled.
"I thought maybe if I could get a Mitt Romney to run, that he would be a great replacement. I don't think Mitt's going to do that, but I'm just trying to make sure this state is taken care of no matter what happens," Hatch said.
The will he or won't he speculation has provided much fodder for national and local news outlets the past few weeks. It even prompted Hatch spokesman Matt Whitlock to tweet last week in response to a CNN reporter, "He's having a lot of fun with you guys."
Hatch didn't say anything new Monday that he hasn't said before. He wasn't any more definitive either way. He's apparently still having fun.
When his current term ends in 2019, Hatch will have served 42 years in the Senate.
In his first campaign in 1976, Hatch criticized three-term Democratic Sen. Frank Moss for serving too long.
"What do you call a senator who’s served in office for 18 years? You call him home," Hatch said more than 40 years ago.
Although Hatch said in 2012 his seventh term would be his last, he never seemed to fully shut the door to the idea of running again. It opened wider after Donald Trump unexpectedly won the White House.
"Frankly, I know what I'm doing. I'm right in the middle of everything. I'm heading the top committee in the whole Congress. It's where we're going to save this country if we're going to save it and I don't just want to walk away without doing the job," said Hatch, chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee.