U.S. Sen. Sen. Orrin Hatch has been forced into a primary fight for his seventh term.
Hatch failed to get the needed 60 percent of delegate votes during Saturday's Utah Republican convention that would have made him the outright GOP nominee.
He'll face former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist in the June 26 primary elections. Hatch, however, holds a significant advantage given his campaign's millions of dollars compared to his opponent's limited funds for advertising.
Hatch had been in a tough race under Utah's unique nominating system where 4,000 delegates were elected in March to select their nominee at Saturday's convention.
The 2010 convention saw the ouster of three-term Republican Sen. Bob Bennett in an upset fueled by a tea party surge. Hatch has been working feverishly to avoid the same fate.
Hatch entered the state Republican convention Saturday with enough support to have many Utah political pundits expecting him to win the Senate nomination without a statewide primary. A clear-cut win Saturday would have been bad news for the tea party arm of the GOP -- not only in Utah but nationally as well, according to The Washington Post.
Hatch seemed ready to take a fall, following the 2010 defeat of fellow GOP establishment figures in Utah, Nevada, Delaware, Colorado and Alaska. But his apparent strong comeback diminishes the conception that the tea party has become the salient power in the Republican Party.
Some pundits, however, suggest Hatch was compelled to shift his policy stances far to the right to mollify the most conservative activists in Utah and that his success would be a de facto win for the tea party.
To pull off this historic political hat trick of survival against all odds, Hatch needed new delegates.
“This is not going to be a campaign of persuading delegates,” Hatch’s campaign manager, Dave Hansen, said Thursday. “This is going to be a campaign of replacing delegates.”
The Hatch machine went to work recruiting supporters willing to run in the 2,000 precincts that select this year’s 4,000 delegates to Saturday’s convention. Following this feat was the corralling of supporters willing to attend caucus night to vote for the Hatch-backed delegates.
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