Orrin Hatch To Face Primary In Utah
Six-term Republican Senator Orrin Hatch fell just 50 votes short of preventing a primary for the Republican nomination for Senate:
SANDY, Utah — Senator Orrin G. Hatch survived a test from nine challengers at the Republican Party state convention on Saturday, winning a majority of the votes but failing just short of the margin needed to avoid a primary election against a well-known and established opponent.
In the first round of voting, on Saturday afternoon, Mr. Hatch got just over 57 percent of the delegate support — first place, but not enough to secure the nomination outright, which required 60 percent. A businessman and former state senator, Dan Liljenquist, got about 28 percent of the vote in the first round.
A second round of voting to decide between Mr. Hatch and Mr. Liljenquist also failed to resolve the issue. Mr. Hatch got just over 59 percent the second time, thus forcing a primary election between him and Mr. Liljenquist. In heavily Republican Utah, the Republican nomination effectively decides the election.
“No one senator is too big to fail,” Mr. Liljenquist told the nearly 4,000 delegates who met in a convention hall here in this suburb of Salt Lake City, urging them to reject Mr. Hatch.
Mr. Hatch, a six-term veteran of the United States Senate, fired back, speaking last before the voting began. He said that experience and “the respect of both sides,” is what gets things done in Washington, not wild claims and promises.
“I’m a tough old bird,” he said. “I’ve never felt more eager, more excited, or more energized.” During his second speech, before the second round of voting, his voice cracked with emotion, “I need you,” he told the delegates.
Mr. Hatch, 78, fought for months to avoid facing the fate of a former Senate colleague and Utah Republican political powerhouse, Robert F. Bennett, who was tossed out by Republican delegates at their state convention in 2010. His seat is now held by Senator Mike Lee, a Republican who had strong Tea Party support.
In an effort to avoid a similar outcome, Hatch supporters mapped the state and dispatched Mr. Hatch himself to town halls and living rooms from the rural southern counties to urban Salt Lake City, blanketing delegates and would-be delegates with telephone calls. The pitch was framed around seniority in the Senate — that Mr. Hatch, as ranking Republican on the powerful Senate Finance Committee, would become chairman if Republicans gained control of the Senate.
The general consensus seems to be that Hatch is a very strong favorite in the primary. Indeed, it was widely accepted in 2010 that Bob Bennett would likely still be in the Senate if he’d managed to do well enough in the State GOP Convention two years ago to force a primary. The primary is on June 26th, though, so I suppose it’s possible anything could happen but if Hatch was able to repair his image among Utah Republicans well enough that he pretty much smashed Lilienquist in both rounds of balloting, something tells me that he’ll be a tough campaigner to and that he’ll pull off a victory in the end. In all honesty, the best shot that Hatch’s opponents had was to knock him off at the convention stage like they did with Bennett. Trying to pull off a victory in a primary is going to be mighty difficult indeed.
Of course, there’s also the whole odd sight of people saying that Orrin Freaking Hatch is a “Republican In Name Only,” but that’s just another example of the oddness that’s been going on in the Republican Party of late.