Washington (CNN) - A conservative group that last year helped defeat GOP Sen. Bob Bennett of Utah in his bid for re-nomination appears to be signaling that fellow Utah Republican Orrin Hatch could be on their target list as he gears up for re-election next year.
"Senator Hatch has a lower lifetime average on the Club for Growth's Congressional Scorecard than his former colleague Bob Bennett for a reason. Orrin Hatch has done some good things over the decades, but six term incumbents who vote for TARP, the Bridge to Nowhere, the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac bailout, SCHIP, and higher taxes are quite clearly not 'as good as it gets,'" says Club for Growth President Chris Chocola, in a statement Friday.
Club for Growth, a fiscally conservative organization that endorses and contributes to Republican candidates, along with some other conservative and Tea Party groups, targeted Bennett last year in the months leading up Utah's GOP convention, where the three-term senator lost his bid for his party's re-nomination. Conservatives Mike Lee and Tim Bridgewater advanced to the party primary, with Lee winning the GOP nod and then the general election.
Chocola's "good as it gets" comment is in response to a quote Thursday on the National Review's website from Sal Russo, the chief strategist for the Tea Party Express, a leading national tea party organization.
In comments to CNN, Russo said that "Hatch has been a good friend and a solid conservative. He's been a good solid conservative vote in the Senate since 1976."
Russo added that the the platform Hatch ran on in 1976, when he first won election to the Senate, is similar to the goals of the today's Tea Party movement. But Russo said that "we haven't made any judgments yet about any Senate races."
Tea Party Express also played an influential role in helping to defeat Bennett last year and as a big supporter of Lee both during the primary process and during the general election.
Tea Party Express Amy Kremer tells CNN that "while Senator Orrin 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."
She adds that "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."
Club for Growth also says the jury's out on Hatch.
"We have made no decision about the upcoming Utah Senate race, but when we do, our decision will be about improving the Senate in 2013, not 1977," adds Chocola.
Hatch, a six term senator, has a history of reaching across the aisle to work with Democrats, which may not sit well with many Tea Party activists and other conservatives. But since the midterm election, Hatch has taken steps to buffer himself from criticism from those on the right by highlighting his conservative chops. Just this he week he led the Senate GOP push for a balanced budget amendment and was a co-sponsor of an Republican amendment to repeal the new health care law.
Hatch tells CNN that "serving the people of the great state of Utah each and every day is my highest priority. I won't ever take that privilege and honor for granted and will continue to work my hardest over the next two years to earn their support once again at the ballot box."
One person who may be considering mounting a primary challenge to Hatch is Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who was re-elected last November to a second term. Chaffetz office says the congressman is concentrating now on his legislative duties and won't make any decision for a number of months.
– Congressional Producer Ted Barrett contributed to this story
–Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn
There you go GOP...keep pushing non-extreme candidates. We all know that it is quite possible that the Tea Party cost the GOP contol of the Senate. Extremism will never work. Middle ground is where most of us want to play.
Rinos are not an endangered species, because there many more same thinkers on both sides of the aisle.
Sorry-take out the word "same' on previous post
We need this infectious disease, known as the Tea Party, eradicated from our party. The moderates and true fiscal conservatives of the party need to rise up and assert our influence by defeating the Religious Right, Tea Party and any other right-wing populist movement in 2012 GOP primaries.
"Middle ground is where most of us want to play."..................then, I assume you will not be voting for Obama in 2012?
Hatch, you better hatch your eggs...o.k, do not be another idiot...
Calling someone with only a 95% conservative voting record like Hatch a RINO is totally ridiculous! Where would the Club for Growth and the US Chamber of Commerce be if Hatch had not helped bail out the banks that would have caused catastrophic collapse of the US Economy? They would be screaming that he had not done enough to help them!
Unfortunately for Senator Hatch, two of his legacies will have come back to haunt him. His darlings in the Supreme Court (Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Roberts) whose confirmations he pressed for pretty much decided that groups like the Club for Growth can spend as much money on candidates and issue ads that they want to. If they decide to use those monies to oust him the way they did Bennett, it will be somewhat of a payback. Unfortunately as Utah traditionally votes Republican, this means the Senate will get another intransigent, reactionary, take-no-prisoners, ultra-conservative who will be out of his or her depth (Utah – probably his) in this August deliberative body. He can then join Rand Paul in the ranks of the clueless. With any luck, by then, the rest of the country will be tired of these Tea Party reactionaries and their idiocies!
"Club for Growth" is a monicker that is the antithesis of what this group actually stands for. A country or business can not grow unless there is investment in the future. What "Club for Growth" seeks to do is divest in America, its industries and people. Is it opposite day?
I like Hatch but quite frankly, anybody who has been in there that long needs to retire. If you presided over the changing of this country into an entitlement society with a bankrupt social security trust fund then you need to go. Gov. Christie was dead right when he said "the party is over". The great government dependent society that the Democrats created has bankrupted this country. As it turns out, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Unfortunately, most Democrats don't understand this very simple concept.
Circular firing squad. That will help in 2012. Keep it going wingnuts
If you get rid of Hatch, then there may be a chance of regulating of the multibillion dollar industry of fraud, the Supplements industry which thrives in Utah. Can Utah afford that to happen?
I always love how these PR people know what the voters want on all issues. They have their own agendas just like most people, and they tend to be insulated even more than most people.
Sen. Hatch is a good man who does not deserve this disrespect from his own state. I suspect he will not win his party's nomination for a seventh term because loud always wins in the red states. I don't agree with Hatch's political views at all, but there is no doubt that he is a man of great integrity and the US Senate will be diminished by his absence. Utah, you're blowing it again.
Time for most of the "old guard," of all parties, to bow out gracefully, to hand over the reins, to leave the legacy they intended when they first started serving this exceptional nation of ours. Folks like Hatch are all too comfortable in their padded nests-time to retire and leave us alone.
"America knows it is time to stop throwing money at every special interest and start managing our dwindling resources."
Really? Well, that's a relief. That would mean there's absolutely no chance of a GOPer winning in 2012, seeing as how that's pretty much all they do...cutting taxes for the rich and corporate interests in a manner that ends up being paid for by the middle class (that's the MATH, junior, so don't deny it), funnelling tax dollars to the military industrial complex, Big Oil, Pharma, the insurance industry, etc. Pretending that the Dems are the only party that acters to special interests solely beacuse your big problem is all about "entitlements" like SS and Medicare or creating things like food, drug, financial/investment, education, environmental, labor and health standards and then assuring that they're actually followed, all of which is actually far more appropriate and more directly beneficial expenditure of our pooled tax dollars and resources than elective wars and tax cuts and loopholes...well, that's just silly. The GOP does it too and anyone with a brain in their head recognizes that the the special interests the GOP caters to are the ones who represent the biggest danger to our society as we claim it is and should be. The thin ideological veil they shroud it in...trickle down deregulatory free market magic pixie dust mumbo jumbo that is disproven by almost every economic statistic over the past 30 years...just sounds nice and would be wonderful IF IT WERE TRUE.
Target list? Stop with the hate-filled rhetoric!
What a clever but deceitful characterization “a constitutional conservative candidate” for a candidate that is willing to as they are directed by the Koch brothers and foreign governments.
If the Tea Party was legitimate, then they would note have to lie as they do. They are not legitimate and the people that believe the lies are fools.
@JB – Amen!!! The TP thinks the election of 2010 was all about THEM.................NOT!! It was all about BALANCE of POWER and NO ONE wants to be FAR-RIGHT!!!!
Hey JB......you say the "Tea Party cost the GOP contro of the Senate".....well if you want to call it that, ok.....call it what you like.....but just keep in mind that without the Tea Party we would still have a Dem controlled House as well. Now, go on back and report in to your Liberal friends because a Conservative you are NOT! I for one am sick and tired of you "so-called" Conservatives who are nothing but LIberal Democrats who are absolutely scared to death of the Tea Party. If you weren't you would not keep on attacking us and more especially people like Sara Palin......IF SARAH PALIN AND THE TEA PARTY IS SO VERY INSIGNIFICANT, AS YOU SAY.....WHY ARE YOU ALL WASTING ALL THE INK, TIME, AND TREASURY ON THE RELENTLESS ATTACKS???
This conservative groups needs to be stopped. They did the same thing in Wisconsin and we lost Feingold, a great senator, for some nut who we haven't heard or seen since November! That probably is a good thing, however!
The TP's are throwing their weight around like the Christian Taliban used to, but there's a huge difference – the TP's can't generate nearly as many voters. They can sometimes win a primary but they'll never win enough seats to make a difference.
Also, the TP's like their heroine Sarah, just have too high of a negative among all voters.