Utah’s Newest GOP Senator Will Not Endorse Orrin Hatch For Re-Election
Mike Lee, the Tea Party candidate who upset Bob Bennett last year in the race for Utah’s GOP Senate nomination, said today that he would not endorse six-term Senator Orrin Hatch for re-election in 2012:
Sen. Mike Lee (R) said Friday that he wouldn’t endorse fellow Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) for reelection in the 2012 GOP Senate primary.
Lee, a freshman senator allied with the conservative Tea Party movement, said he would stay neutral in the Republican primary, paving the way for a conservative challenger to Hatch.
“It’s not my intention to support any candidate until the democratic process has had a chance to play itself out in Utah,” Lee said on MSNBC.
Lee’s decision not to endorse Hatch speaks volumes about the political danger Hatch faces in 2012. The veteran GOP senator is expected to face a primary challenge from his right, and there’s active precedent that a challenger could succeed; Lee, after all, succeeded in wresting the Republican nomination from veteran Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) in a primary race last year.
Hatch has been working to promote his conservative credentials, and has been conducting outreach to Tea Party groups. He participated earlier this week, for instance, in an online town hall organized by the Tea Party Express, one of the largest groups in the movement.
Lee said he wishes Hatch well, but was pointed in refusing to say he would endorse his colleague for reelection.
“That’s not up to me, that’s up to the voters of Utah once we get into 2012,”
Given Lee’s ties to the Tea Party, and the problems that they have with Hatch, this isn’t surprising. Hatch has two years to repair the damage, but that may not be enough to stave off a challenge and, depending on how Utah