Earlier today, NRO interviewed Sal Russo, the chief strategist for the Tea Party Express, about his group’s take on Sen. Orrin Hatch, who could face a primary challenge in 2012. Russo had high praise for the Utah Republican, dubbing him an “original tea partier.”
“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 who would, especially with the president being Jerry Ford. Orrin Hatch, however, stood up and was our state chairman,” Russo said. “He is somebody who has been willing to stand up for a long time.”
Upon hearing this, we made sure to follow up. From the tape:
NRO: Would it be fair to say that you’re not going to focus on Utah like you did Nevada and Delaware?
RUSSO: Yeah, you know, Orrin is a Reagan conservative. As far as I’m concerned, that’s as good as it gets.
This evening, Amy Kremer, the chairman of the Tea Party Express and a Russo colleague, e-mailed us her take:
In regards to Sal Russo’s comments, what Mr. Russo was getting at is that we will continue to approach each race with a sense of the greater perspective and understand the Reagan principle that our 20 percent enemy is still 80 percent our friend. As such we wouldn’t want to put someone like Sen. Orrin Hatch on a par with the leading big-government liberals in the chamber lest we dilute the importance of just how destructive the agendas of such senators are to the Founders’ vision of small and limited government.
While Senator Hatch is certainly a very kind and decent man who is well-liked by his peers, he has also been a politician who has at times gone with the will of the entrenched political establishment instead of the will of the voters of his state.
There is great excitement and energy amongst Utah tea-party activists about the prospects for a constitutional conservative candidate to step forward and offer an alternative to Senator Hatch in 2012. If and when that should happen, we here at the Tea Party Express will evaluate those candidates.
Our evaluation process will be identical to that which propelled us to support Mike Lee’s challenge to Utah’s other establishment senator, Robert Bennett. And one can expect us to continue to proudly support constitutional conservative challengers just as we’ve already done with Sharron Angle, Joe Miller, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Christine O’Donnell.
These are the candidates we here at the Tea Party Express support — these are the kinds of candidates that the people of this great Tea Party movement support.
The Tea Party Express remains committed to being a principled voice for the Tea Party movement and striving for maximum effectiveness in advancing the interests of Tea Party members across America. Getting our government to return to the small-government and constitutional principles that animate this movement will continue to be our sole charge.