Why Orrin Is Throwing His Hatch in the Ring

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Never mind that Orrin Hatch is the twelfth GOP presidential candidate in a primary race that’s practically already been won. That no one outside of Utah seems to like him very much. That he doesn’t have a chance. Sometimes, a man’s just gotta run. "Hatch has been ruminating about this for a long, long time," says TIME congressional correspondent Jay Carney. "He’s been in the Senate 23 years. He’s 65 years old. If he was ever going to run, he might as well do it now." Hatch made his unofficial announcement Tuesday in his favorite public-speaking venue –- the Senate hallway -– and promised a low-key formal announcement in a few days. And he’s warning that "my life has been a long string of surprises."

Not this time, says Carney. "I just don’t see where he fits in. He’s running as a maverick -- a guy who can work with Democrats -- but Bush, and even McCain, is doing that too," he says. "He’s a social conservative, but so is the rest of the GOP field." And at this late date, in this front-loaded election cycle, there may not be a dollar left for him outside of Utah. But Utah law allows him to try this and still run for reelection for his Senate seat -- an accommodation engineered by Hatch’s own supporters a while back -– so he’s got nothing to lose. And of course, ego had not a little to do with it. "There’s a saying," says Carney, "that every senator wakes up, looks in the mirror and sees a president." Orrin Hatch is going to need the campaign trail to open up and swallow his competition before that happens.