Sen. Hatch calls Romney 'his preference' in 2012

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said over the weekend that he expects former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will run for president in 2012 and that he "would be my preference" for the GOP nomination. 

It's one of the first statements of 2012 support from a congressional Republican.   

Romney has not yet announced his intentions for 2012, but he is widely expected to make a second run at the White House. In 2008, Hatch backed Romney's bid and publicly encouraged the candidate to address his Mormon faith, which Hatch shares. 

The Utah Republican, meanwhile, could be locked in a Republican primary himself in 2012. A recent Mason Dixon survey showed 48 percent of likely voters in the state would prefer an alternative to Hatch in two years. 

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) is one rumored opponent — the two have already locked horns over 2012. Hatch recently claimed that Chaffetz privately pledged to not challenge him, which Chaffetz denies.