The buzz in Utah is that Sen. Orrin Hatch may be vulnerable in 2012, especially if a Tea Party insurgent mounts a campaign to snag the nomination at the Utah Republican convention. Last year, Mike Lee and Tim Bridgewater knocked off Sen. Bob Bennett on the second ballot, sending the Beehive State into a political tizzy. Lee, of course, now holds the seat and is making an early name for himself as a fiscal hawk.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a 43-year-old Provo Republican, is often mentioned as a possible Hatch challenger. But as Chaffetz and others mull a run, they will not find support from the Tea Party Express, the California-based political action committee that propelled Sharron Angle, Christine O’Donnell, and others to primary victories last year.
Sal Russo, the group’s chief strategist, tells National Review Online that the Tea Party Express will not tangle with Hatch in 2012. “In 1976, when I was scouring the country trying to find people to stand up for Ronald Reagan, there were not very many in the Republican party that would, especially with the president being Jerry Ford. Orrin Hatch, however, stood up and was our state chairman,” Russo explains. “He is somebody who has been willing to stand up for a long time.”
“I think he was an original tea partier,” Russo says. “He has been talking about our issues from the beginning. Orrin is a Reagan conservative, as far as I’m concerned, and that’s as good as it gets.”