Hatch will retire in 2018 if he wins reelection

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) will make his next term in the Senate his last if he wins reelection, the seven-term senator said Tuesday.

Hatch will turn 78 in March, and would be in his mid-80s when he would be running for an eighth term.

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“I was a leader of the Sagebrush Rebellion that started during my first term in the Senate. The state has made it clear that they expect the land to be conveyed by the end of 2014," Hatch said, referring to his advocacy for Utah's public lands. "I want to see the transfer of land happen, and the end of the need for a Sagebrush Rebellion, during my last term in the Senate."

Hatch is facing major primary challenges this cycle, the most threatening coming from former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist (R). Tea Party groups and others who see Hatch as insufficiently conservative are eager to knock off the incumbent, who has served in the Senate for more than three decades.

FreedomWorks, a Tea Party group, has made Hatch a top target. The Tea Party and other conservative groups are hoping to repeat their 2010 success at ousting Hatch’s former partner in the delegation, then-Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah), who drew the ire of the Club for Growth and other fiscally conservative groups.

But Hatch has secured the support of many top Republicans, including presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who cut an ad this week praising Hatch.

Hatch’s make-or-break moment comes next week in Utah, where the state’s GOP caucuses will determine whether to hold a primary for Hatch’s seat. That same process led to Bennett’s ouster in the last cycle.

Hatch notes that as the ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, he is in line to chair that powerful panel if the GOP takes control of the Senate. But his earlier warning to Republicans — that centrist Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) would end up in that slot if a primary forced Hatch out of the Senate — was nullified in February when Snowe announced she was retiring.

- This post was updated at 9:39 p.m.