The decision by Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, 83, not to run for reelection means the loss of an influential senator who was once willing to work across party lines. Due to a likely Senate bid from former Republican Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, the Senate GOP may shift slightly towards the center. In a landscape of polarized politics, Senator Romney would be a small step towards the center.

On January 2, 2017, Senator Hatch announced that he would resign as Senator at the end of his term in 2018. His departure will come after 42 years in the Senate, making him the longest serving Republican senator in history. President Donald Trump has made considerable attempts to encourage Hatch to run for an eighth term, as Hatch is a crucial player in the Senate. Senator Hatch is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance and the former chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committees. One of the more productive senators, Hatch was instrumental in passing the recent tax reform, to which he introduced several amendments. Still, Hatch acknowledges that “every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves. And for [him], that time is soon approaching.

In acknowledging Hatch’s stature, President Trump promised to scale down the size of Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments, a change that Hatch has passionately advocated.

As much as President Trump would not like Hatch to resign, he also does not want Romney to become a Senator. Romney has openly criticized President Trump since he ran in the 2016 GOP Primary and promised he would let his objections be heard in the Senate. Romney’s willingness to oppose the president is crucial for Congress, especially since Romney has considerable sway over the GOP establishment having once been their nominee for president.  

In order to check President Trump’s executive authority, it would be best for a Democrat to win Hatch’s seat. Unfortunately, the last time Utah voted for a Democrat for president was in 1964 when Lyndon B. Johnson beat Barry Goldwater. It has been 41 years since Utah voted for a Democratic Senator.  Salt Lake City Council Member and Democrat Jenny Wilson will also be competing for Hatch’s seat this coming November but will face a difficult race. Still, Mitt Romney could deliver a similar blow to President Trump’s agenda and help bring a small portion of Congress back towards the center.

One of the foremost barriers to resisting President Trump’s agenda are his so called “presidential loyalists,” who are willing to sacrifice their independence for his goals. Even before President Trump held his infamous first cabinet meeting during which each cabinet member took turns praising the president, he has developed a reputation for listening to and rewarding only his staunchest supporters. Romney, like Arizona Senators Jeff Flake and John McCain, has been denounced by President Trump for his willingness to advocate for his ideals.

Since a Democratic challenger will almost certainly not prevail in the red state of Utah, it is imperative that Mitt Romney runs for and wins Hatch’s seat. In a time of great polarization, the election of Mitt Romney would be a small step towards bringing back a center to American politics.