SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, rounded up a big endorsement Monday in his re-election bid — GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
"Orrin is a committed public servant who always puts the people of Utah first," Romney said in a statement released by the senator's campaign. "I couldn’t be prouder to endorse him in his re-election bid."
Hatch faces tough opposition as he seeks a seventh term. A potential challenger, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, announced he wouldn’t get in the race, but Hatch has been targeted by national tea party organization FreedomWorks.
Romney, the leader of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, was the overwhelming favorite of Utah Republicans in the state's 2008 party primary, winning an unprecedented 90 percent of the vote.
But Romney's endorsement did not save now-former Sen. Bob Bennett from losing his party's nomination at the 2010 GOP convention.
Hatch said he is "deeply humbled by Mitt's support. He is a man I deeply admire and whom I know would lead our nation out of the economic mess we are in today."
University of Utah political science professor Matthew Burbank said the endorsement is "not likely to have a big impact."
Burbank said the race will be won or lost with Republican delegates to next year's state party convention.
"For some delegates, certainly a Romney endorsement is a good thing. But, as we saw with Bennett, if there are substantial problems that they have with a candidate, they're not going to be swayed."