(CNN) - Utah Republicans forced Orrin Hatch into a June primary for the U.S. Senate seat he has held since 1976 as Hatch fell short of winning the party’s nomination for a seventh term Saturday.
Hatch came within 42 votes of winning the nomination outright at the state’s GOP convention, but ultimately missed the 60% support needed to avoid a primary. He will face former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist, one of nine challengers who tried to oust him, on June 26.
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Hatch’s history of reaching across the aisle to work with Democrats does not sit well with many tea party activists and other conservatives. But those constituencies may take more favorably his leading the Senate GOP push for a balanced budget amendment and co-sponsoring a Republican amendment to repeal President Barack Obama's health care law.
Hatch won the support of 59.19% of the 4,000 delegates in the second round of voting, with Liljenquist claiming 40.81%. The remaining eight challengers were eliminated on the first ballot, when Hatch won 57% of the vote, Liljenquist 28%, and state Rep. Chris Herrod just over 10% - a threshold reached by no other candidate.
Hatch has spent millions in the last year against the challengers and outside groups seeking his ouster. He went into the weekend with some polls, including internal surveys released by his campaign, split as to whether a primary would take place.
At the 2010 GOP convention, the state’s boiling tea party movement - largely fueled by the passing of the sweeping health care legislation – swept aside longtime Utah Sen. Bob Bennett when he finished third and the top two candidates faced off in a primary. Mike Lee won the November election for the seat.
In a short speech to the convention – each candidate was allowed six minutes to speak or show a video presentation – Hatch touted his seniority, arguing it would land him a powerful committee chairmanship and has given him expertise with navigating the nation’s upper legislative house.
“Not anyone else in this race can say the same, not if he’s telling the truth,” Hatch said.
But Liljenquist told delegates, “Your vote today has nothing to do with the words ‘chairman’ or ‘seniority.’ ”
“It has everything to do with the experience… and background to turn things around,” he said.
Several candidates touted their willingness to work with likely GOP nominee Mitt Romney, should he be elected president, but Hatch’s presentation opened with a video of Mitt Romney urging delegates to vote for “my friend, Orrin Hatch.”
Romney has a reserve of goodwill in the state where many share his Mormon faith, and which saw him turn around the 2002 Olympic games held in Salt Lake City.
A Salt Lake Tribune survey released Thursday shows that 62% of Republican voters in Utah back Hatch as the Senate nominee, with 20% favoring Liljenquist, 6% supporting Herrod, and 12% unsure. The poll did not ask about seven other lesser-known candidates.
Internal polling of convention delegates released by the Hatch campaign showed him above the 60% mark. Surveys conducted by some other organizations showed him falling short of the threshold.
In a statement after his win, Hatch said he is "prepared for the primary election ahead."
“Today was a good win for me, and for my campaign. We have come a long way in a short period of time," he said. “I am prepared and energized for the battle ahead. I have had the wonderful opportunity to travel our state from corner to corner, talking to voters, and discussing the issues of great importance to Utahns – and I will continue to work hard to ensure that my message is heard loud and clear."
Liljenquist told supporters in a Saturday evening fundraising email, "I promise to go to Washington and promote fiscal conservatism so that we can get our country and our economy back on track."
Among other influences in the race, the conservative and tea party-aligned group FreedomWorks is seeking to unseat Hatch, as it and allies did in Bennett’s 2010 bid. The national political director of FreedomWorks said in a statement after Saturday's vote that Hatch "had 36 years to get his act together, but continues to put power over policy."
“Dan Liljenquist is a rock solid conservative who will uphold the Constitution and stand by Senator Mike Lee in Washington to get America’s spending problem under control," Russ Walker said.
But groups aligned with Hatch, including the National Rifle Association and the super PAC Freedom Path, spent more than FreedomWorks in the lead up to Utah’s March local caucuses.
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"Utah Republicans forced Orrin Hatch into a June primary for the U.S. Senate seat he has held since 1976..."
This is exactly what's wrong with America's political system today. We need term limits for ALL politicians!
We need term limits NOW!!!
I didn't even know this repulsive old codger was still alive.
They just get loonier and loonier. They're going to destroy what is left of the Republican party... and that might actually be a good thing.
Hatch may be doomed, as he doesn't have a track record as a fanatical, extremist, neo-con. The republican party has swung so far off the scale to the so called conservative side, they can't comprehend the terms "cooperation" or "bipartisan".
"Lib's & RINO's beware... We... The people... Vote."
"We the people" you are talking about are the extreme right-wing of the electorate.
You don't like moderates either? Best of luck with ONLY the over 50, white male vote. Yeah that's going to take you people far just like the Whig Party.
It is not that Hatch is too liberal. It is that he is willing to cross party lines to make deals that allow bills to pass. That is what is anathema to the baggers. He undestands the art of compromise, and not just the practice of Stand Your Ground. That didn't work for Zimmerman. It didn't work for Santorum. Hopefully it will not work for Liljenquist, either.
The tea party people have destroyed the republican party. GOP, better kick the TP and the right wing extremist to the curb asap.
This very stiff guy has been in office way too long I new him as a child 50 years ago showing how the mormons are still in controll with no regards to seperation of church and state, not to mention way into manipulating of elections in Utah and any other state in question. When will there be seperation of chuch and state/
Democrat and IND dont need to beware
WE ARE MORE THAN YOU. You will be defeated. Everyone but the tea party unite. We have the numbers. They know this. And it will only get worse for Republicans. By 2016, with 4 more years of new youth, the Republican party will be powerless. Wait. Its coming. They are very afraid. 2010 Was the wakeup call.
Looks like the 60 vote rule has come back to bite Hatch in the rear.
The Tea Party eats their own.
And all the tea in China couldn't put Humpty together again.
Free Man in the Republic of Texas, we've seen the way people in Texas vote. Do they put moron chemicals in the water down there?
Damn Tea Party fanatics. Loud ignorant minority.
.......Mayb Utah wants a senator a little more to the right of Hatch, and just a touch left of AMADINEJAHD..............
..........Utah...........home of the only section of the country without the color BLUE.......................
See, now you are at the receiving end of the Koch Brothers and the rest, now you reap with you sow. It's just a matter of time before they go after Boehner, Cantor, McConnell, the Koch Brothers, Citizens United and all the others believe you can be replaced with even more right wing people who think like them. So end the end you reaped these people and they will elect someone else for your office.
it is time for all of them to go. we need some young blood in washington
The Tea Party extremists are not numerous enough to elect candidates, and their efforts will help Obama & Co.give us four more years of dangerous, drunken sailor spending, plus a foreign policy likely to harm our allies and encourage our enemies.
Republicans are becoming very scary. Oriin Hatch is too liberal, Wow! I guess I need to send more money to the democrats. I do not want to live in an America with republicans in control of the government. They are the "let them eat cake party".
There should be no doubt that the teabaggers are about hard right extremism and zero compromise with anyone. they are the most un American group this nation has ever faced.
If the tea party has its way, 100% of everything that made 20th century America the greatest place in the history of the world will be tossed aside in favor of an idealism that has never existed here before.
I hope the GOP of Utah pick Hatch over their extremists. this nation will not survive a tea party America.
Hatch is one of the most reasonable productive Senators to hold his position. For him to not be reelected would be a tragedy.
Good, keep eating your own!
maybe he need to do more of the stuffthe people in his district want.