It took two ballots by Utah Republicans gathered at their state convention in Salt Lake City Saturday, but Sen. Orrin Hatch took the first step toward securing renomination to a seventh term in 2012. Two years after his then-Senate colleague Robert Bennett was eliminated from the race by convention delegates in favor of two opponents (including present Sen. Mike Lee), Hatch–at 77 and after 36 years in the Senate–rolled up 59.2 percent of the delegates to 40.8 percent for challenger Dan Liljenquist.
Although former State Sen. Liljenquist did manage enough of a convention vote to make it into the GOP primary June 26, Hatch’s smashing performance among delegates makes the veteran senator a strong favorite in that race. As Hatch campaign manager and former State GOP Chairman Dave Hansen told HUMAN EVENTS after delegate races last month, “this won’t be the same convention that Bob Bennett lost in ’10.” And, Hansen added, “Senator Hatch will be even stronger among primary voters.”
As much as Liljenquist attacked the senator for being in office for many years and for voting for the DREAM Act–a target of illegal immigration foes–the only major national conservative organization to rally behind the insurgent candidate was FreedomWorks, headed by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Tex.).
Club for Growth, the pro-home school Madison Project, the anti-incumbent Campaign for Public Accountability–all took a pass on trying to take down Hatch. It is difficult to think of just where Liljenquist can turn to for the resources needed to wage a strong primary challenge.
“Our victory in the [convention] delegate selection process was a victory over FreedomWorks,” Hansen told us. In seeking re-election, Hatch emphasized conservative issues with which he has long been identified –a Balanced Budget Amendment and opposition to liberal judicial nominees, to name a few. In effect, Hatch won by behaving and sounding less like a Washington insider and more like the “roarin’ Orrin” he was as a young senator. And now, at 77 and a great grandfather, Hatch has clearly demonstrated he can still roar.