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Contradictory reports: Is Mitt Romney planning to run for Orrin Hatch’s Senate seat?

Mitt Romney looks over the Utah Olympic Park in Park City on Friday, Feb. 3, 2017. Romney was at the park for a staff celebration of the 15-year anniversary of the 2002 Olympics. (Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Two political news websites have contradictory reports about whether former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a two-time presidential contender, is interested in running for the seat Orrin Hatch has held in the U.S. Senate since 1977.

The speculation itself may be useful to Senator Hatch, R-Utah, as he contemplates running for an eighth term.

Senator Hatch has said he’d step aside if an “outstanding” candidate such as Mitt Romney ran for the seat that he’s occupied since 1977. In the meantime, though, he’s raising campaign money as if he were planning to run again.

University of Utah political science professor Tim Chambless says the ongoing speculation could help with that fundraising.

“He can go into a luncheon and literally raise millions of dollars,” Chambless told KSL Newsradio.

Romney was the Republican nominee for president in 2012. Chambless says Romney’s also run for the Senate before.

“Way back in 1994, Mitt Romney challenged Ted Kennedy for a U.S. Senate seat in Massachussets,” Chambless adds.

The website UtahPolicy.com cites sources who says Romney’s seriously considering a run, while the national site Politico quotes Hatch as saying the former presidential nominee won’t run.

Hatch spokesperson Matt Whitlock issued a statement following the stories, saying “Nothing has changed. The Senator has not made a final decision and remains focused on the work Utahns sent him to Washington to do.”