Washington (CNN) - Two long serving Republican senators who could face primary challenges from the right as they run for re-election next year both showed up Tuesday night at a reception held by a leading grassroots conservative organization.
Senators Orrin Hatch of Utah and Dick Lugar of Indiana separately attended the function, put on by FreedomWorks at their new headquarters, which is located just a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol building.
FreedomWorks is a nonprofit conservative organization based in the nation's capital that helps train volunteer activists and has provided much of the organization behind the Tea Party movement. The group also supports conservative candidates in Republican primary and general election contests.
FreedomWorks says both senators, as well as every other Republican and Democratic lawmaker in Congress, were invited to their open house to show off the group's new offices.
The bigger of surprise of the two is Lugar, who is already facing a primary challenge from the right. Late last month Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock announced his bid for the GOP nomination.
Lugar, the most senior Republican member of the Senate who's running next year for a seventh term in office, has been criticized by many Tea Party activists and other grass-roots conservatives for his willingness to work with Senate Democrats to seek bipartisan solutions, for his votes in favor of President Obama's Supreme Court nominees, and for his 2008 vote in favor of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, better known as TARP. They were also upset with him for his early public openness to vote in favor of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia.
A senior FreedomWorks official was recently in Indiana, meeting with grassroots conservatives, including members of Hoosiers for a Conservative Senate, which was formed to find a consensus candidate to primary challenge Lugar.
FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe tells CNN that Lugar told him he wanted to come by to meet the folks at FreedomWorks. Kibbe adds that Lugar did not bring up any talk of campaign politics.
Lugar met late last year in Indiana with Tea Party activists. Mark Helmke, a senior advisor to the senator, tells CNN that "the senator and staff have reached out to numerous individuals and groups saying they are members or are sympathetic to the tea party movement. Lugar sees eye to eye with them on fiscal and spending issues."
Last year FreedomWorks was one of the groups that targeted three-term Republican Sen. Bob Bennett of Utah in the months leading up that state's GOP convention. 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.
Hatch, who wants to avoid Bennett's fate, has a history of reaching across the aisle to work with Democrats - a fact that obviously does not sit well with many Tea Party activists and other conservatives. But Hatch has taken steps since last year 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 a Republican amendment to repeal the new health care law. Last month he also landed a perfect score in the American Conservative Union's 2010 ratings.
Kibbe says in his conversation with Hatch, the six-term senator emphasized his conservative record and said he was looking for opportunities to work with FreedomWorks on such things as a balanced budget amendment.
"Senator Hatch understands that grassroots conservatives and now the tea party movement are critical to our democracy and the vitality of the Republican Party," Hatch spokeswoman Antonia Ferrier tells CNN. "Any success Republicans have had in fighting the Obama agenda is owing to the commitment of citizens inspires by the Tea Party movement. It is with that fundamental respect to restore constitutional limits on the federal government that Senator Hatch stopped by Freedom Works open house this evening."
As with Indiana, a senior FreedomWorks official was recently in Utah, meeting with grassroots conservatives about possible challenges to Hatch.
One possible conservative challenger could by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who was re-elected last November to a second term. He recently told the Deseret News that a run for the Senate is "a definite maybe," and said he intends to make his decision before the autumn.
While FreedomWorks officials are meeting with activists in both Utah and Indiana, they emphasize that they have not endorsed any challengers or the incumbents in those two states in this early stage of the election cycle.
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I feel for the conservative movement if these two long-time hard core conservatives are not good enough for their own party any longer. If it were not for the fact that some even crazier person was likely to come in their stead, I would be pleased to see them leave...but the direction of the GOP with its tea party mentality of "no compromise" is just plain stupid and short sighted. The GOP is going in such a hard right direction that I wonder if Ronald Reagan would qualify. He worked with democrats, he increased taxes and debt, and headed a union before he was governor of California. Truly, the hero of the GOP would not be elected in this day and age.
The Tea Party is NOT a grassroots organization. It is the CREATION of Freedom Works, the Koch Brothers and other entities whose members are primarily rich, white and/or retired, Republican men.
Poor old, desperate Orrin, Hope he washed his mouth out with soap before speaking.
the tea party goes after anyone who talks with democrats! thats a great way to run the goverment. john boehner wants the president to lead in the budget cuts that he says has to be made.guess what john your party ran an election by saying what you were going to do and its not the democrats that have to make your pronises become fact. i am a baby boomer and here is a good place to start. ronald raegen borrowed surplus money from social sucerity to fund his arms race and george w. bush borrowed surplus money to pay for his wars and nation building. the I.O.U.s that they left in the account helped put the total at $2.5 trillion owed for which the republicans borrowed the most to pay for other things. pay that back john it will fix social sucerity for many years to come! social sucerity is well into black ink and has always been so. the republicans want it gone so americans won't find out just how much their party has borrowed from the account. we boomers paid it to cover our retirement not to cover republican adventures.
Freedom Works is grassroots? Isn't it heavily funded by a few uber-rich indivuduals? When did that become grassroots? Isn't the purpose of Freedom Works to whip ignorant, fearful people into a frenzy, so they support policies that are not in their own best interest? Lincoln did say the you CAN fool SOME of the people ALL of the time. Hey Tea Party – in this instance, you ARE some of the people.
Following John Mc Cain path
Same old corporate lobbyists with a semi-new face and more money to make them seem important. Of all of the many far right causes this billionaire grass roots organization support nothing points out their hypocrisy like the START Treaty. Had it been proposed by a Republican administration in its exact same form there would have been no disagreement because it was just the right thing to do. I've also found it hard to swallow that this group, and others like it, were formed in opposition to Pres. Obama's policies when they sprang up fully formed by February of 2008.
The fact that Senator Hatch and Senator Lugar attended a meeting wiih Tea Party Conservatives is not surprising unless you add the movement's threat to run candidates against these men in the primaries in their states. I really thought these men would not yield to the pressure.
The very fact that this group can threaten senators or anyone else with an opponents in a primary is very sad. How can the American people support this group which uses tactics like this against politicians. Isn't there anyone in Washington who is willing to confront this group for what they are and what they do.
They have threatened Olympia Snowe, too. I haven't heard anymore about that. I believe that the people in Maine would support Senator Snowe over a candidate with no experience. When they tried to put up a candidate against Margaret Chase Smith so many years ago those involved discovered just how wrong they were. Margaret Chase SMith was elected once again.
We all need to step forward to tell groups like this that we do not appreciate their threats or their tactics. it is time to take back our states. When I listen to their rhetoric I am not impressed but I do find them depressing. I would like to see the tax statements for people in this group. How are they making ends meet while they travel across the country? Who is paying for this? These are questions that need to be answered.
Orrin Hatch is a prime example of why we find ourselves in our current situation. Until voters in this country take enough interest in understanding how these Rich, White, Old, Pseudo Christian, hacks really operate, they will keep all of the sheep under their control with the status quo. This guy will say anything to maintain it and stay comfortable and safe politically.
We need to Vote these fakes out and replace with someone with less Self Interest.
This is the Face of the Republican Party – They are the FUTURE!
The Tea Party is going to be the downfall of our country, if they get their way. To be against anyone who want to work with Democrats to get anything accomplished is just plain stupid. If our country no longer consists of more than one party, it is no longer a democratic republic. This movement has moved into a dangerous area and I fail to see how thinking Americans could ever support this type of agenda.
It's a shame to see Dick Lugar – a true statesman – have to bow to the bottom feeders. I think Hatch needs to go, he's nothing but a hack.