Why Orrin Hatch Survives 2012 Politically
There has been a lot of talk lately about whether or not Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) might be ousted by the same tea party zeitgeist that took down former Utah Senator Bob Bennett in 2010.
While political speculation is always risky, here are five arguments for why Sen. Orrin Hatch will probably survive:
1. Hatch saw this coming two years in advance. Sen. Bennett was blindsided by the rising tide against him, but that won’t happen to Orrin Hatch. By all accounts, Hatch is working hard, courting tea party conservatives, and ratcheting up the rhetoric against Barack Obama.
2. The timing is different. Obviously, 2012 is not 2010 — meaning there probably won’t be the same level of anger and anti-incumbent fervor that permeated politics in 2010. What is more, unlike 2010, the presidential election campaign in 2012 will likely suck up some of the attention that might otherwise have been focused on Senate races.
More specifically, it’s important to note that the 2010 Utah caucuses (where the state delegates to the convention were voted for and chosen) were held just one day after Obama signed health care reform legislation into law.
Though Sen. Bennett wasn’t officially ousted until the May 8 state convention, the delegate selection that took place at the caucuses essentially sealed Bennett’s fate.
(Note: Because Bennett had been a co-sponsor of the Wyden-Bennett Healthy Americans Act — which some conservatives viewed as just as bad as Obamacare – Bennett was especially vulnerable on the health care issue).
3. Hatch’s team understands the caucus process. Dave Hansen, Hatch’s campaign manager, was previously the Republican state chairman. Perhaps more importantly, Hatch’s general consultant, Jason Powers, ran the Club for Growth’s anti-Bennett campaign before advising then-candidate Mike Lee. Bennett’s team was clueless when it came to winning a convention — Hatch’s team will be expert at it.
Many of Sen. Mike Lee’s top campaign operatives and activists — the same folks who ousted Sen. Bennett — are now working for Hatch. And as The Salt Lake Tribune recently reported: “Hatch is well aware that he has a tea party problem, and one of the ways his campaign is trying to solve it is by hiring some of the movement’s organizers.”
4. Hatch’s mixed voting record. Sure, he worked across the aisle with Ted Kennedy and voted for the Wall Street bailout in 2008, but Hatch has also opposed Obamacare, voted against both Obama Supreme Court nominees, led the fight against Obama’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) nominee Dr. Don Berwick, and has been a stalwart support of the right to life. Simply put, the waters are muddy.
What is more, there is not a completely clear contrast between Hatch and his most likely primary opponent, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah). Chaffetz, for example, voted to extend the Patriot Act — an issue for some tea party activists (many of whom in Utah are Ron Paul fans).
5. Hatch is likable. All politics is personal, and Orrin Hatch — regardless of how you feel about his politics — is likable. This is not to say that Bennett was personally offensive, but Hatch’s likability will be an asset as he reaches out to activists and opinion leaders.