U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who faces a seventh, six-year term in 2012, said Friday he has not yet decided whether he will seek re-election.
But the 74-year-old Hatch said, "I will not run if I can't do what I'm doing right now" working long days "for the benefit of Utah."
Several weeks ago, Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, said he would seek re-election in 2010. Bennett is one year older than Hatch, who was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1976.
Bennett won his first term in 1992 pledging during his initial campaign that he would only serve two, six-year terms. Bennett soon changed his mind, however, after his first election and said he would seek re-election beyond 12 years in office.
Hatch, who points out he ranks ninth in the 100-member Senate in seniority, would be 78 when running for re-election in 2012 and 84 when his next term ends in 2018.
Hatch said he continues to raise funds as if he will run in 2012. "You always have to fund raise fundraise" because of the ever-increasing cost of elections.
"If I don't think I can do as good a job as I have been doing the last 32 years, I probably won't run," Hatch told the Deseret News editorial board.
"But don't count me out" in 2012. "I'm a tough guy," said Hatch.
There has been some grumbling among leading Utah Republicans after Bennett announced he would run again in 2010. A number of younger GOP politicians here are anxious about when a U.S. Senate seat slot could open up.
In 2000, Hatch was challenged by a relatively unknown Republican who almost got enough state delegate votes to get into a GOP primary against him. However, Hatch ended up with a strong showing in the general election that year and was not seriously challenged in 2006.
"I know that I make a difference for our state," said Hatch. "I know I make a difference for the country. The South had it right a long time ago. They get a good senator who really supports their state; they keep them there."
Although Hatch admitted that the late Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., who was 99 when he left the Senate, was probably in office too long.
Hatch said the idea of term limits for congressmen and senators "was dumb." He asked why anyone would want to have to dump a good national legislator just to replace him with someone who didn't know the ropes.
"I work hard," said Hatch. He said he gets up at 5 a.m. every morning and works until 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. most nights. "I don't think anyone back there (in Washington, D.C.) would say that I am not a good senator. I work on every Utah issue, and as every senator, I work on many national and international issues."But I would want to be able to do the work I'm doing to have the energy and physical capacity and emotional and intellectual capacity to really do what I'm doing," he said. "It is too far off to even talk about whether I will run in 2012 or not. Naturally, if I thought it made a difference to this country and this state, of course I would."