Hatch seeks to avoid Ben­nett’s fate in cau­cuses

Se­na­tor from Utah has a plan

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics - BY KEVIN FREK­ING AND JOSH LOFTIN

SALT LAKE CITY | Dis­grun­tled con­ser­va­tives planted the seeds for Sen. Robert Ben­nett’s de­feat long be­fore del­e­gates at the Utah Re­pub­li­can Con­ven­tion made it of­fi­cial two years ago. Now, some of them hope to repli­cate their suc­cess against six-term Sen. Or­rin G. Hatch on Thurs­day in Utah’s Re­pub­li­can cau­cuses.

Mr. Hatch has been wait­ing for them.

Each May, Mr. Hatch speaks to a group of Univer­sity of Utah stu­dents vis­it­ing the na­tion’s cap­i­tal. In 2009, he can­didly and for­tu­itously sug­gested that Mr. Ben­nett would be vul­ner­a­ble to de­feat at the next state con­ven­tion. A year later, af­ter Mr. Ben­nett lost, Mr. Hatch told a new group of stu­dents he had been work­ing fer­vently to en­sure he wouldn’t meet a sim­i­lar fate.

“They said they had started the pre­vi­ous De­cem­ber a very ac­tive grass-roots ef­fort to con­tact ev­ery del­e­gate, ev­ery past del­e­gate, ev­ery sit­ting del­e­gate, ev­ery po­ten­tial del­e­gate and put forth a per­sua­sive ar­gu­ment why Sen. Hatch should be elected to an­other un­prece­dented term,” said Tim Cham­b­less, a po­lit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Utah who was es­cort­ing the stu­dents. “He said he was not go­ing to have the same ex­pe­ri­ence as Sen. Ben­nett.”

When the three-term Mr. Ben­nett lost in 2010, it sent shock waves through the Re­pub­li­can Party and her­alded a re­volt that saw tea-party-backed can­di­dates such as Chris­tine O’don­nell, Shar­ron An­gle and Marco Ru­bio top­ple more es­tab­lished, main­stream Repub­li­cans.

On Thurs­day, Utah’s GOP vot­ers once again will give po­lit­i­cal par­ties and their can­di­dates an early glimpse into the mind­set of con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­cans re­gard­ing con­gres­sional races.

The gath­er­ings rep­re­sent the first step in Utah’s unique sys­tem of nom­i­nat­ing po­lit­i­cal can­di­dates. Those at­tend­ing the neigh­bor­hood cau­cuses will elect 4,000 del­e­gates to next month’s GOP con­ven­tion. The con­ven­tion del­e­gates will nar­row the field. If a can­di­date wins at least 60 per­cent of the vote, they be­come the party’s nom­i­nee. Oth­er­wise, the top two voteget­ters move on to a pri­mary.

Mr. Hatch, 78, and dozens of sup­port­ers are re­cruit­ing del­e­gates who will sup­port his nom­i­na­tion at the con­ven­tion. The tea party af­fil­i­ate, Free­dom­Works, is lead­ing the charge for any­one but Mr. Hatch and has spent more than $475,000 so far this year in that ef­fort. The or­ga­ni­za­tion’s su­per PAC has mailed a 44-page brochure crit­i­cal of Mr. Hatch to some 37,000 po­ten­tial cau­cus par­tic­i­pants.

Mean­while, chal­lengers such as for­mer state Sen. Dan Lil­jen­quist, 37, and state Rep. Chris Her­rod, 46, are also plead­ing their cases to po­ten­tial del­e­gates.

Mr. Lil­jen­quist said Utah’s nom­i­nat­ing sys­tem has greatly in­creased the prospects for an up­set be­cause the del­e­gates are more im­mune to po­lit­i­cal ads. Mr. Hatch is the only can­di­date with the re­sources to run tele­vi­sion ads, and they are a reg­u­lar pres­ence in prime time.

“We have the best sys­tem in the world for negat­ing the in­flu­ence of out­side money on races be­cause you have to look 4,000 peo­ple in the eye and say, ‘Here’s why you should send me to Washington,’ “Mr. Lil­jen­quist said. “It’s this same sys­tem that pro­duced Or­rin Hatch in 1976, out of the blue, with no name recog­ni­tion.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

In 2004, Sen Robert Ben­nett (left) and Sen. Or­rin G. Hatch par­tic­i­pated in the state Re­pub­li­can con­ven­tion in Sandy, Utah. Dis­grun­tled con­ser­va­tives planted the seeds for Mr. Ben­nett’s 2010 de­feat, and now some of them hope to repli­cate their suc­cess against Mr. Hatch.

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