Tea Party Express not planning to target Hatch
January 27th, 2011
05:38 PM ET
12 years ago

Tea Party Express not planning to target Hatch

Washington (CNN) - Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, who may face a primary challenge next year, apparently now has one less thing to worry about.

The Tea Party Express, a national Tea Party organization that last year helped oust Bob Bennett, Utah's other GOP senator, as he unsuccessfully tried to win his party's re-nomination, says they have no plans as of now to target Hatch next as he gears up for re-election in 2012.

Sal Russo, the Tea Party Express's chief strategist, tells CNN that "Hatch has been a good friend and a solid conservative. He's been a good solid conservative vote in the Senate since 1976."

But Russo adds that "we haven't made any judgments yet about any Senate races."

"I first got to know Hatch in 1976 when Ronald Reagan was running for president and we were trying to find Republicans that were willing to stand up to incumbent President Gerald Ford and stand with Reagan and we were having trouble in Utah. Orrin came forward and said I'll do it. So he was our state chairman and I think we ended up sweeping the Utah delegation at the convention, and we've been good friends ever since.

Russo says 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.

Russo's comments were first reported by the National Review.

Responding to the news, Hatch told CNN that "I'm deeply humbled and grateful to Sal Russo and the Tea Party Express for these very kind words of support. 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."

The 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.

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.

Last year Tea Party Express and other conservative groups targeted the three-term Bennett, partially because of his support of the the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and his sponsorship of a bipartisan heath care reform bill. At the Utah GOP state convention last June he lost his bid for his party's re-nomination. Tea Party Express then backed conservative Mike Lee, one of the two GOP candidates who advanced to the party primary. Lee subsequently won the Republican primary and then the general election.

–Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn

Filed under: 2012 • Orrin Hatch • Tea Party Express
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. PalmReader

    Personally, I'd rather the TeaPers DID challange Hatch. He represents all that is wrong in Congress today - not to mention being one of the biggest BS-ers to ever grace this side of reality. Apparently, GOPers aren't as nit-picky as they want us to think they are.

    January 27, 2011 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  2. Limbaugh is a liberal

    Surprise, surprise. The Tea Party once again excuses a republican and sucks up to the GOP. What a joke! They don't actually care about principles. All they care about is being zombies in the Rush Limbaugh army.

    January 27, 2011 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  3. Dr. Lingua

    Target ... as in cross-hairs? Time we changed our rhetoric, isn't it?

    January 27, 2011 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  4. Seattle Sue

    Too bad, I've always thought of Hatch as a weasel without morals.

    January 27, 2011 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  5. Randy, San Francisco

    Hatch should still cast a wary eye on the Tea Party Express. They can still turn on him and issue a painful bite in the future.

    January 27, 2011 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  6. Frank in Valparaiso Indiana

    Thing is, there are idiots in Utah who think that Glen Beck is the smartest person since Joe Smith. I'm related to some of those idiots. Its just astounding. But, hey, let the GOP turn on each other. Get rid of another senior senator in a Red state. I'm astounded at the race to the bottom that is going on in this country. We have raised a generation of idiots.

    January 27, 2011 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  7. CBR

    Senator Hatch is a good senator and represents the people of Utah very well. He is a gentleman and can be counted on to keep rhetoric on track. That being said, one wonders what the TEA Party Express thinks of his longtime friendship with Senator Edward Kennedy. Sometimes they worked together and sometimes they worked at polar opposites but they knew how to respect each other and to remain friends.

    The TEA Party Express does not have a history of working with others. They are a one agenda group and as long as someone votes the party line they get the TEA party support. They nave never learned that it takes compromise, respect, and a willingness to listen to be a good senator or representative. Given their propensity to shout down those who disagree and to overlook the faults of their own candidates I would be just as happy to have them stay away form my state.

    January 27, 2011 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  8. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Not they won't target Hatch, the Tea Party has their target on the rest us who want nothing to do with them.

    January 27, 2011 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  9. johnessj

    a strong democrat need to form a democratic front against these radical tea partier ideas. the tea party policy is a danger to all freedom minded americans. these radical tea party is ridiculously ignorant of what the measure they propose would mean to everyday american who are losing jobs, and social enjoyment to live a good life in america BEFORE THEY DIE:o

    January 27, 2011 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  10. fayse

    In searching the Internet, I have found some iinteresting facts. One of the founders of the John Birch Society was Fred Koch. His sons have been instrumental in founding and supporting the Tea Party. Both George Bush's were memebers of a secrect society called the Skull and Bones society. Dorothy Bush Koch is married to Bobby Koch. What does all of this mean? It means the two very influential families are trying to influence our American way of life. This is information that can be verified and ascertained on the web. I urge you to do some research. The John Birch Society was rejected many years ago by the American people. The Tea Party is a spin off of the JBS. The majority of Americans are not wealthy elitists so, why then would ordinary folks wish to be manipulated by the very wealthy in our Nation? Look it up for yourself.

    January 27, 2011 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  11. Voice of Reason

    I'm surprised. Hatrch has always been a well-spoken, well educated mamber of the Senate who knows how to cross the aisle when needed. That's like a red cape in front of a bull as far as the TeaNuts are concerned. They dont want reasoned discussion. They dont want cooperation. They want everything their way or the highway. Maybe they finally figured out that they dont want to alienate Utahns just yet – especially with Romney's impending run for the White House.

    Who but the Tea party could actually move to the Right of UTAH ??? Sheesh!

    January 27, 2011 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  12. kyle

    The tea party express didn't target those who voted for tax cuts for the rich either.

    January 27, 2011 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |