Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) is looking much safer for re-election, following victories in Thursday night’s Utah Republican caucuses that play a red large role in determining who gets nominated in this deeply GOP state.
As such, Hatch looks well set to avoid the fate of former Utah Sen. Bob Bennett, who lost his nomination at the 2010 state Republican convention.
Hatch had seemed to learn the lesson of Bennett’s defeat, and went into 2010 much better prepared, and moving further to the right. Hatch also said this week that this will be his last election, and he will retire in 2018 at the end of the next term — but use all of his seniority and clout on the state’s behalf until then.
“I’ve been told that things went fairly well. Actually I’ve been told that things went really well, but who knows,” Hatch told the Salt Lake Tribune. “I’m a tough old bird and nobody is going to push me around without a fight.”
That’s a bit of an understatement. As the paper reports, even Hatch’s most prominent challenger, former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist, lost the votes for all three delegates in own home precinct, with pro-Hatch delegates beating out pro-Liljenquist candidates.
The University of Utah’s NPR affiliate reports:
The prevailing sentiment of delegates elected across the state seems to be supportive of Hatch. Holly Richardson is the campaign manager for Senate candidate Dan Liljenquist, and she is disappointed.
“We were surprised at how strong their presence was,” said Richardson, “They did a very good job of organizing, and getting out. We knew they were working hard. So were we. I would say overall the Hatch campaign should could tonight as a victory. They did very well.”
Under the rules of the Utah GOP, a candidate with 60% of the convention vote will be nominated outright, with no primary. If the 60% super-majority is not reached, after a number of voting rounds, then the final two contenders will compete in a statewide primary.
Back in 2010, Hatch’s fellow Republican Sen. Bob Bennett came in third place at the convention — denied even the opportunity to seek re-election in a primary — and was eventually replaced by the winner of the Republican primary, current Sen. Mike Lee.
But other challengers remained in the race, with Hatch still having the job of winning over local grassroots GOP activists at the caucuses throughout the state, against Tea Party ire directed towards longtime incumbents like himself.