(CNN) - If Rep. Jason Chaffetz mounts a Republican primary challenge to longtime Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, a new poll indicates Hatch leading by 15 points among GOP voters.
But among voters who describe themselves as 'very conservative', a new Deseret News/KSL survey indicates Chaffetz leads Hatch by 15 points.
Hatch, a 76 year old six term senator, could face a conservative challenge next year when he's up for re-election. That challenge may come from Chaffetz, who was re-elected last November to a second term. The 43-year-old congressman told the Deseret News that a run for the Senate is "a definite maybe," and recently said he intends to make his decision before the autumn.
According to the poll, conducted by Dan Jones and Associates, Hatch leads Chaffetz in a hypothetical 2012 GOP primary senate election 44 to 34 percent among all Utah residents. The survey indicates Hatch leading Chaffetz 51 to 35 percent among those describing themselves as Republicans, with Chaffetz on top by the same 51-35 percent margin among self-identified 'very conservative' voters.
Hatch 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. He recently 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 wants to avoid the fate of former three-term Sen. Bob Bennett, who was targeted last year in the months leading up Utah's GOP convention by tea party and other conservative groups. Bennett was defeated at the convention in 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.
The Deseret News/KSL poll was conducted by Dan Jones and Associates from February 8-10, with 496 Utah residents questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.
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