Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, will likely face a strong challenge from tea-party state Sen. Dan Liljenquist in the Republican nominating process, which begins with the state's March 15 caucuses and concludes with the party's state convention in May. So presidential candidate Mitt Romney and an outside spending group are doing what they can to boost the 35-year incumbent, The Hill
Hatch’s campaign has released a radio ad in which the former Massachusetts governor praises him. And American Action Network (AAN), headed by former Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., has spent six figures on TV ads for Hatch, The Hill reports. The AAN ad lauds Hatch's longtime advocacy for a balanced-budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
At the caucuses, the party will choose delegates for the state convention.
Hatch and Liljenquist then compete in May’s GOP convention. If one gains more than 60 percent of the vote, he wins the nomination. Otherwise a primary election will be held. Hatch faces a bigger risk at the convention, where tea party activists make up a large chunk of participants, than in a statewide primary, because he is still popular with mainstream conservative Republicans.
While both Romney and the AAN represent the establishment wing of the GOP, their support may be quite useful to Hatch, The Hill reports. Romney remains quite popular in a state with plenty of Mormons, and the AAN ads may help buoy Hatch’s conservative credentials.
In 2010, tea party supporters dominated the caucuses, giving them the power at the state convention to oust longtime Sen. Bob Bennett.
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