Despite tea party PACs, Hatch cruises to easy win over Liljenquist

June 27, 2012

By Lee Davidson | The Salt Lake Tribune

The tea party, big-spending PACs and challenger Dan Liljenquist failed Tuesday to force 78-year-old Orrin Hatch into retirement. The self-proclaimed “tough old bird” flew easily through the GOP primary, so now only Democrat Scott Howell stands between him and a record-shattering seventh term.

“I’m very energized by all this,” Hatch said as it became clear he would likely win by a wide margin. “This will give us an opportunity to help Mitt Romney to get the things that will really turn this country around.”

He vowed to keep working hard in the general election, and said he will continue to stress how important is for him to become chairman of the Finance Committee, if Republicans can win control of the Senate.

“That’s where 60 percent of all the spending is [controlled], that’s where the entitlements are, it’s where the terrible tax code is … it’s all on that committee. Romney understands that,” Hatch said.

“I’ve given it everything I have,” Hatch said of the race. “I have a great time campaigning. It’s the fun part of being in these offices.”

Liljenquist — a former state senator who was just a year old when Hatch was first elected to the Senate 36 years ago — congratulated Hatch, and vowed to help him with the general election. Liljenquist lost every county, including his home county of Davis, in unofficial results.

“This race has been focused on the fiscal issues facing this country and I have appreciated the opportunity to meet and talk with the voters of Utah,” Liljenquist said. “Senator Hatch has my support moving forward and I look forward to helping get this country back on track.”

Liljenquist said it is difficult to say if he will run for political office again, but, “I have a passion for policy and I want to be involved in any way that I can.”

Hatch’s easy win shows how much Utah’s political landscape changed since two years ago, when the tea party managed to dump three-term incumbent Sen. Bob Bennett at the state GOP convention.

Hatch avoided Bennett’s fate first by spending heavily to recruit supporters to attend political caucuses to run as state GOP delegates — and replace many of the tea partyers that doomed Bennett. It helped him to survive the convention to face a primary.

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